Researchers win $8M grant for ‘male pill’
Researchers at KU and KU Medical Center have won an almost $8 million
National Institutes of Health contract to find chemical compounds to
develop into reversible male contraceptives that do not rely on steroids
or affect bodily hormones.
The five-year contract will allow scientists from the two campuses to
continue research and testing started in partnership with the NIH four
years ago that has led to the development of promising chemical compounds.
The KU team is one of only a few research groups in the world working
to develop male contraceptives.
“The NIH awarded this research contract to us because of the interdisciplinary
and collaborative nature of our team, as well as the technology and
laboratories KU and KUMC have for testing,” said Gunda Georg, lead researcher
on the project.
Georg is also director of the Center for Drug Discovery at the Higuchi
Biosciences Center on the Lawrence campus.
The other primary members of the team are Joseph Tash, associate professor
of molecular and integrative physiology at KUMC; Qi-Zhuang Ye, research
professor at the Higuchi Biosciences Center; and Ernst Schonbrunn,
assistant professor of medicinal chemistry.
In its work under the previous NIH contract, the KU team identified
a chemical compound they named Gamendazole that caused temporary infertility
in male rats by affecting sperm production, Georg said.
Gamendazole, on which KU has filed a patent application, emerged from
more than 100 compounds tested.
“The KU team has identified a dose of Gamendazole that caused 75 percent
of the rats to lose fertility in week three after taking the compound
and 100 percent of the rats to become completely infertile in week
four and five,” Georg said. “Partial fertility begins to return
to the rats in week six.”
The group also focused on finding novel inhibitors of key enzymes that
have an important role in either sperm development or motility, Georg
Finding chemical compounds to temporarily deactivate the enzymes so
that the sperm do not fully develop or cannot move to cause pregnancy
key objective of the research.
We need to find compounds that are potent, selective and can be developed
to be taken orally,” Tash said. “We do not want a compound
to affect other enzymes in the body. We want to specifically target the
right enzyme and nothing else.”