Andrew Hopkins of the University of Dundee in the United Kingdom is developing a screening platform using live human sperm to identify new male contraceptive drugs that inhibit two separate activities required for fertilization, namely motility and formation of the acrosome on the head of sperm cells. Currently, the only effective, widely available, and reversible form of male contraception is the condom, which has limited appeal. Alternative male contraceptives are needed to help reduce the estimated 89 million unintended pregnancies each year. In Phase I, they successfully developed a high-throughput screening platform incorporating confocal microscopy and phenotypic analysis tools optimized for 384-well culture plates for automated screening of large numbers of candidate male contraceptive compounds. In Phase II, Christopher Barratt also of the University of Dundee, will further the development of new contraceptives by studying the properties and mechanism of action of the hits identified in Phase I and perform additional screens with both focused and diverse compound libraries.
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