Weill Cornell Medicine has received a three-year, nearly $6 million grant to lead one of three national contraceptive research centers. The grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, part of the National Institutes of Health, will fund the Weill Cornell Medicine Contraception Development Research Center. Led by Drs. Jochen Buck and Lonny Levin, both professors of pharmacology at Weill Cornell Medicine, the center will focus on developing an on-demand male contraceptive.
It's an honor to be selected for a second time for this award. It will help us take the next steps in the years-long process of bringing a new contraceptive option to the public."
Dr. Lonny Levin, professor of pharmacology, Weill Cornell Medicine
Currently, females have many contraceptive options available to them, including taking hormonal pills or having an intrauterine device inserted, though they are often poorly tolerated or inconvenient. The only male contraceptive options are condoms or vasectomies. But a study published by Dr. Buck and Levin earlier this year in Nature Communications demonstrated that a single dose of a drug candidate that inhibits an enzyme called soluble adenylyl cyclase (sAC) immobilizes sperm for up to two and a half hours and prevents pregnancy in mice.
"Our idea is to develop a new form of on-demand contraception," Dr. Buck explained. "The man takes the pill a half hour before having sex and then will be protected from impregnating someone for eight to twelve hours. Afterwards his fertility returns to normal."
The funding from the Contraceptive Development Research Center Program at NICHD will help support three distinct projects to advance progress toward developing sAC inhibitor-based male contraceptives and an administrator to oversee the work.
One project will focus on improving the current drug candidate to make it suitable for humans. This candidate was developed and tested in a preclinical model in collaboration with the Sanders Tri-Institutional Therapeutics Discovery Institute (TDI), a relationship fostered by the Weill Cornell Medicine Enterprise Innovation office. The Sanders Tri-I TDI, led by Dr. Peter Meinke, works with investigators from Weill Cornell Medicine, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and The Rockefeller University to expedite early-stage drug discovery.
The second project will focus on developing additional compounds that have similar contraceptive effects. The third project will help the center test its compounds in a second preclinical model that more closely mimics human reproduction.
"We want to ensure that we're starting with the best possible compound before we embark on clinical trials," Dr. Levin said.