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Male birth control pill nears human trial

The new pill has been 99% effective in mice, and 100% reversible, without targeting hormones.

MINNEAPOLIS — After decades of research, a birth control pill for men — developed at the University of Minnesota — could soon begin human trials.

"We invented this drug candidate and then scaled it up in our own facility here," said Gunda Georg, regents professor and department head of the U of M's Department of Medicinal Chemistry.

Professor Georg says trials in mice showed the drug was both 99% effective at preventing pregnancies and 100% reversible within four to six weeks of discontinuing use. 

She says it works by blocking a protein that is key to sperm production.

"It reduces sperm count to a level that makes a man infertile," she said. "It's exciting because it is both effective and reversible."

Georg says the pill showed so much promise that it was licensed by Your Choice Therapeutics, which is now submitting a request to the FDA for a phase one safety trial to put it to the test on men late this year.

"The plan, at this point, is to have about 80 men participate," Georg said. "This is cutting-edge stuff, right, and if it works out, this could be huge."

And unlike traditional birth control for women, it doesn't target or block hormones.

"Because it is non-hormonal, the side effects that you're seeing with hormonal contraceptives, we will not have," she said.

Though plenty of other concerns can arise in human trials, professor Georg says concerns over whether men will take a birth control pill, which has hampered research and development in the past, appear to be easing.

"When you have restrictions on abortions and worries about forms of contraception, then of course the need goes up, and so I think this comes at the right time," she said. "I think the interest in vasectomies also shows that men are going to be participating more than in the past, in helping with birth control.

"I can tell you, I get emails, even today I got an email from someone who wants to participate in the clinical trial, so there's a lot of excitement around it."

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