A researcher at the University of Kansas Medical Center has been awarded more than $7.5 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health to lead a team, including researchers at seven universities, in a collaborative effort to develop male contraceptives.
This five-year grant will establish the Interdisciplinary Center for Male Contraceptive Research and Drug Development, a multi-institutional organization that will work to develop new non-hormonal, reversible male contraceptive agents for drug production.
The center will not only consist of research teams at KU Medical Center and KU-Lawrence, but also collaborators across the country at the University of Minnesota, Duke University, the University of California-San Fransisco, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.
Funding for the center was awarded by the Contraception & Reproductive Health Branch of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
The center will be directed by Joseph Tash, PhD, an associate professor of molecular and integrative physiology at KUMC, and associate director, Dr. Gunda Georg, Chair of Medicinal Chemistry at University of Minnesota. Tash, Georg, and a team of researchers at KUMC and KU Lawrence, have been conducting NIH-funded research, designing and testing male contraceptive agents, for more than five years.
Their work has lead to the development of some promising chemical compounds, such as Gamendazole, one of the most potent new oral anti-spermatogenic agents identified to date. Under this grant, research will continue on Gamendazole as well as exploring new lead compounds.
Tash said the group intends to take a multidisciplinary approach, focusing on several chemical compounds, and proteins that regulate testes function so that mature sperm are not produced. They are also concentrating on chemical agents that may temporarily deactivate enzymes so that sperm development is prevented or sperm are immobilized so the egg remains unfertilized. To identify new lead compounds, the center will utilize High Throughput Screening and proteomics to test hundreds of thousands of compounds.
While High Throughput Screening (HTS) technology is more common in private industry, KU is one of the few universities in the nation to have such a facility, which Tash said is important since many pharmaceutical companies have curtailed their research and development in male contraception. Without the HTS lab, screening hundreds of thousands of compounds could take years, but with the technology, screening time is dramatically reduced to weeks.
The research program in this center will go beyond identifying new protein targets involved in regulation of male fertility, and begin cutting edge drug discovery and design. The scientists involved in the research have a record of success in providing NIH with highly promising reversible non-hormonal male contraceptive agents.