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Round 17 Grand Challenge Exploration Awardees Announced


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Targeting the earliest phase of product development, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation recently announced its Grand Challenge Exploration Round 17 Contraceptive Discovery award winners.  Seven projects featuring novel platforms to accelerate contraceptive drug discovery received funding. Research scopes of work include:

  • Identifying novel contraceptives that target early stages of ovarian follicle development (current contraceptives target later stages)

  • Identifying compounds that block the rupture of follicles – an action key to releasing eggs for fertilization

  • Modeling endometrial functions in the uterus as it prepares for pregnancy; and

  • Targeting the direction and velocity of sperm swimming patterns (defective swim patterns are associated with infertility).

The foundation also awarded 11 grants under a related challenge to assess family planning needs, preferences, and behaviors to inform innovation in contraceptive technologies and services.  Funded research includes:

  • Development of a mobile phone survey to investigate how young men in Mali, Nigeria, India and Kenya view family planning;

  • Evaluation of current clinic practices as well as maternity patients’ knowledge and attitudes around post-partum IUD insertions in an effort to increase uptake in Rwanda;

  • Exploration of how perceptions of contraceptive products may create barriers to uptake among South African women; and

  • Determining how game-based learning techniques that simulate Ugandan real-life situations around family planning decision-making could provide deeper understanding of influences on those choices.


Findings from these novel concepts may inform, trigger, or springboard more comprehensive contraceptive research and development efforts in an effort to expand the family planning method mix and increase uptake and continuation.

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