This is an archived article.

November 7, 2002

Male contraception: UW becomes leading center for research on new methods

The National Institutes of Health has awarded a five-year, $9.5 million grant to the UW to establish a new interdisciplinary Male Contraception Research Center.

Dr. William J. Bremner, Robert G. Petersdorf professor and chair of the Department of Medicine, will be director of the new center and a principal investigator. Other principal investigators are Drs. Robert E. Braun (UW Genome Sciences); Joseph A. Beavo, Jr., (UW Pharmacology); and Michael Griswold (Washington State University, Biochemistry and Biophysics). Co-investigators include Drs. Bradley D. Anawalt and John K. Amory (UW Medicine), Valerie Vasta (UW Pharmacology), and Derek McLean (WSU Biochemistry and Biophysics).

“Contraception for men has been a neglected area of research,” Bremner said, “and there has been no new reversible-mode contraceptive since the invention of the condom hundreds of years ago. To prevent unwanted pregnancies and the resultant health risks and social consequences of abortion and unwanted children, new easily usable contraceptive techniques must be made available.

“Nearly one-third of contraception in the United States is now accomplished by male techniques (15 percent by vasectomy and 15 percent by condoms), demonstrating that men are willing to use contraceptives. We wish to provide new hormonal methods that are fully effective and may have additional health benefits—for example, in preventing prostate disease,” he added.

The new center will be part of the Cooperative Contraceptive Research Centers Program (CCRCP), funded by the Contraception and Reproductive Health Branch of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and designed to expedite development of new approaches to regulating fertility. The program supports a wide range of interactive research projects, both basic and applied, with the ultimate goal of developing knowledge that may lead to clinically useful products. Two other centers in the program are located at the University of California, Davis, and the Population Council of Rockefeller University, New York. There are also affiliated projects at the University of Virginia and the Jackson Laboratories.

“A variety of safe and effective contraceptive methods is necessary to respond to the needs of people of different backgrounds and ages, both male and female, throughout the world. The CCRCP supports the scientific and administrative infrastructure necessary to address the broad issues involved in fertility regulation,” Bremner said.

The UW Center consists of three research projects in the departments of Medicine, Genome Sciences, and Pharmacology; an administrative core; and a program for fellows and new investigators. There is a fourth project at Washington State University, and there are cooperative activities between the projects. In addition, the Center sponsors a seminar series at UW featuring visiting speakers.

Bremner is also co-founder and director of the existing UW Population Center for Research in Reproduction, supported by another NIH center grant. The Population Center is a national leader in research on the basic biology of male reproduction, infertility, and contraception. Bremner plans to combine the Population Center with the new Male Contraception Research Center to create one larger UW cooperative center funded principally by the two NIH grants.