Since its founding in 1986, CONRAD scientists have been instrumental in moving forward a number of different types of contraceptives including mechanical barriers, chemical barriers and systemic contraceptives for both men and women. CONRAD scientists and investigators across the globe continue to search for promising new contraceptives.
The majority of CONRAD's current contraceptive work is focused on novel leads for female contraception, although some of the most promising leads are sperm function inhibitors that could be used vaginally by women or systemically by men.
In Vitro Research: CONRAD researchers have analyzed a number of compounds and their pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics to identify new classes of compounds that could potentially be used as contraceptives. CONRAD scientists and supported investigators have researched several peptide and gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) antagonists for pregnancy prevention. Other leads that could be used vaginally in women or systemically by men include non-hormonal approaches that interfere with sperm motility or hyperactivation, such as small molecules that inhibit sperm-specific enzymes or ion channels. Non-hormonal approaches for men under investigation include methods that interfere with spermatogenesis or sperm emission. An in vitro implantation model that will be used to validate the efficacy of these compounds has been developed.
Formulations: Contraceptive candidates must be safe, efficacious, stable and in a form acceptable to users. The most promising female contraceptive leads are being formulated into vaginal gels. However, creams, gels and other semi-solids require an applicator, which makes them more expensive and harder to store. For this reason, CONRAD is also investigating other contraceptive delivery methods for women including intravaginal rings for vaginal delivery of contraceptives (and anti-retrovirals to protect against HIV-1 transmission). Potential delivery methods for male contraceptives include pills, injectables, implants and patches.
Animal Models: Initial testing of contraceptive candidates is often performed in small animals (e.g., mice, rats, rabbits) to determine optimal dosing levels and route of administration and to study safety and efficacy. Larger animals, including non-human primates, are most often used in later stages of testing, as they are more closely related to humans.
Safety: CONRAD is committed to the development of safe contraceptives. Contraceptive candidates are tested extensively in the laboratory and in animal models before they are tested in humans.