Population Council receives $11 million to develop non-hormonal MPT ring to prevent unwanted pregnancies and STIs

The Population Council Center for Biomedical Research has received an $11 million grant for the P50 Clinical Research Center from the National Institute of Health’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute for Child Health and Development (NICHD) (NIH). Queen’s University Belfast and Weill Cornell Medical College will partner with the Council on this grant over the next five years.

The grant will spur research and development of a new non-hormonal multi-purpose contraceptive technology (MPT) vaginal ring that will combat the overlapping burdens of unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. The product will fill a critical gap in reproductive health care, addressing women’s reproductive preferences and needs.

This unique product has the potential to meet a wide range of sexual and reproductive needs, including protection against sexually transmitted infections, contraception, and vaginal health support. Women need more options to manage their changing sexual and reproductive health needs. The non-hormonal MPT ring offers hope for an important new contraceptive option that could provide women with protection against the growing risk of STIs.”

Lisa Haddad, MD, MPH, Board Medical Director and Principal Investigator

Non-hormonal option

Many women want to avoid hormonal methods and the associated side effects. A non-hormonal method would allow women to maintain a regular menstrual cycle without loss of menstruation (amenorrhea) or unexpected, irregular bleeding. Currently, the non-hormonal options available are limited to gels or long-acting methods that require a doctor to insert, such as the copper IUD.

Protection against STIs and HIV

Sexually transmitted infections are on the rise worldwide, with more than one million new cases every day. In 2019, approximately 1.7 million people were newly infected with HIV worldwide. Rising antibiotic resistance is making it harder for healthcare providers to treat STIs, which currently cost more than $2 billion a year. Despite national efforts to reduce STI transmission, the United States has seen strong and sustained increases for five years; reporting more than 1.7 million cases of chlamydia and 555,000 cases of gonorrhea in 2018.

STIs pose widespread risks to women and their children, including increased risk of HIV acquisition and transmission, chronic pelvic pain, infertility, and premature birth; the leading cause of infant morbidity and mortality.

Recent data indicates that women overwhelmingly prefer, and are more likely to use, contraception that prevents both pregnancy and STIs/HIV. To better understand women’s preferences, the grant will also fund behavioral and acceptability studies alongside biomedical research on formulation and testing.

“The goal is to have the product ready for clinical trials at the end of the five-year grant. Along the way, we will generate new data on the acceptability of vaginal rings and the factors that increase acceptability and adherence to vaginal rings,” Dr. Haddad said.

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