Panther alumni Maneesha Ghiya ’96 and Noraan Sadik ’98 have known each other for more than 30 years from Ranney School and are now propelling women’s healthcare into the future with their company FemHealth Ventures.
Maneesha Ghiya ’96 and Noraan Sadik ’98 are propelling women’s healthcare into the future with their company FemHealth Ventures—a venture capital firm dedicated to investing in women’s health innovations. The Panther alumni have known each other for more than 30 years when they met at Ranney School. The duo took time to speak with our Alumni Relations office to share more about their new venture.
How did you meet at Ranney? Is it a coincidence that you both attended the University of Pennsylvania for your undergraduate degrees?
Sadik: Maneesha’s younger brother Kedar was in my class and so our families have known each other since we were in elementary school. Although Maneesha graduated two years before me, everyone at Ranney was very close when we attended since class sizes were small. It was a happy coincidence that I decided to attend Penn after she had already enrolled.
What inspired you to work together to launch FemHealth Ventures?
Ghiya: I’ve been investing in healthcare for over twenty years, and an inspiring incident occurred when my daughter, who is now twelve years old, was born. During the delivery, I had serious complications. In short, I had a C-section that caused internal bleeding. I was rushed into a multi-hour exploratory reoperation to attempt to identify and stop the bleed. But unfortunately, the surgeons could not find the source. Given the extent of my continuing blood loss, my physician declared there was nothing else that modern medicine could do. All they could do was hope for the uncertain chance that my body would close the source of the bleed on its own. Fortunately, after a long night, my body was able to catch up with the bleed and I survived. It was a significant experience for me, and afterwards I felt compelled to have an impact on women’s health. Combined with the increasing excitement and innovation in women’s health, it led to my desire to start a women’s health focused venture capital firm. When I was looking for someone to partner with, I thought of Noraan since her skill set would complement my own.
Sadik: When she reached out, it was wonderful and serendipitous. Although I had not sought out to start a venture capital firm, I was excited by the cause since, if it were not for women’s health innovations, I may not have become a mother. Unfortunately, like many women, I struggled with fertility, so I was inspired by the opportunity to use my skills and experience to help women’s health companies provide a greater impact to women. Overall, I would describe my career as a business builder—I started my career as a corporate attorney helping to build businesses, spent several years as an entrepreneur, and led and built teams focused on business development of strategic clients for a growth stage company. Joining Maneesha to build FemHealth Ventures was a unique and meaningful way for me to bring all these experiences together.
What was it like to start your business during the pandemic?
Sadik: There were several factors that made 2020 a great opportunity timing-wise for our firm, even though we launched during the pandemic. Last year was another year for increased interest in venture capital. In addition, there has been a lot of growth within women’s health innovations and an influx in women’s health companies.
Ghiya: COVID even helped bring to light some of the differences between women and men. For example, with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the first six patients that were found with the blood clotting disorder were all women of childbearing age. We do not know the full data yet, but even the initial data has helped people recognize that there can be a different impact from the same treatment in men versus women.
How did Ranney prepare you for this venture?
Ghiya: As a 9th grader at Ranney, I took AP Biology which was taught by Mr. Orminati. It was great that Ranney offered the course to students as freshmen in high school and I really enjoyed that class. It drove my interest in biological sciences. Interestingly enough, when I decided to enter the Jerome Fisher Management & Technology Program at the University of Pennsylvania (a dual-degree program between Penn Engineering and the Wharton School), Mr. Orminati said to me, “I thought you were going to be a doctor because you were so interested in biology.” In fact, on my senior sheet, he wrote “Business ??” (meaning why are you going into business, you should be going into healthcare?!”). I actually have that sheet framed and hanging in my childhood bedroom to this day.
I look to many elements of my Ranney education on a daily basis when evaluating companies for potential investments. In fact, I can vividly remember the illustrations within the biology textbook given how well we studied it. Also, Ms. McCleary, our chemistry teacher, was fantastic at creating simple explanations of complex concepts. I started Penn as a freshman with 13 AP credits, which helped me complete a dual degree program in four years.
Sadik: One of the biggest blessings during my time at Ranney was the diversity of the student body. Everybody was from a different background and our differences were celebrated. I remember International Week vividly. This had a huge impact on how I think about my place in the world. Also, the fact that we were learning a foreign language starting in third grade in the 80s and 90s was rare. I double majored in Psychology and French in college – the French major was very much because of the love I developed for the language while at Ranney. And, of course, the college preparedness was unparalleled - from all the AP classes that were offered to the consistent and personal presence of our guidance counselors throughout high school.
Can you tell us about an investment that you’re excited about?
Ghiya: One investment we have already made is in a company called BioAesthetics that is developing a solution for a nipple for breast cancer survivors. There are over 100,000 women each year in the U.S. that undergo mastectomies followed by breast reconstruction and, unfortunately, a majority of them don't have a nipple at the end of it. These patients do not have a good substitute option--they can use a stick-on, get a tattoo, or undergo a procedure to have a skin construct that unfortunately flattens quickly, or do nothing. The company we’ve invested in has created a tissue graft that a patient’s own cells populate, which over time allows the nipple to grow as the patient’s own. This approach is based on tissue grafts for other applications. BioAesthetics’ product extends this technology to address a substantial need for breast cancer survivors. We are very excited that the company we are supporting is bringing this innovation forward for women’s health.
FemHealth Ventures invests in groundbreaking innovators in women’s health, focusing on drugs, devices, diagnostics, and digital applications. The company is (re)imagining women’s health to include conditions that affect only women, affect mostly women, or appear differently in women. For more information, visit their website www.femhealthventures.com
Maneesha Ghiya graduated from Ranney School as the class valedictorian. She attended the dual-degree Management and Technology program at the University of Pennsylvania where she earned a BAS from Penn Engineering and a BS from the Wharton School. She also has an MBA from Harvard Business School. She currently is a Board Member of HealthyWomen, a Board Member for BioAesthetics, and an Executive Board Member for the Jerome Fisher M&T Program. She, her husband, her daughter, and her son live in New Jersey.
Noraan Sadik, a Ranney “lifer”, earned a BA from the University of Pennsylvania and a JD from Stanford Law School. She is a Board Member for HData, an Advisory Board Member for BioAesthetics, and an Executive Member of the Revenue Collective. She, her husband, and her son live in New York.