Over the past 20 years, Jeffrey T. Jensen, M.D. and his team at Oregon Health & Science University have been working on innovative family planning research, from improving existing contraceptive methods to the development of novel non-hormonal approaches. Jensen’s latest work is centered on research that could ultimately lead to a safe, effective and accessible nonsurgical permanent contraception for women around the world using polidocanol foam, an FDA.-approved treatment for varicose veins.
The need for better contraception options is an important global health challenge of our time. Options are especially lacking for women who have achieved their desired family size. Current approaches to permanent contraception for this group involves surgery, which is expensive and risky in low-resource settings. In October of 2014, Jensen’s team was awarded a $5 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a center to advance this research.
According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 222 million women in developing countries would like to delay or stop childbearing but are not using any method of contraception. The WHO cites tubal sterilization as a popular contraceptive choice in many developing countries and at least 100 million women in developing countries may undergo sterilization in the next two decades.
Jensen is collaborating with Ov Slayden, Ph.D., and his team at the Oregon National Primate Research center’s team to develop the Oregon Permanent Contraception Research Center. OPERM will provide grant funding, scientific expertise, a nonhuman primate animal resource, laboratory and procedural infrastructure, and administrative support to selected investigators who want to evaluate different novel nonsurgical contraceptive methods.
Jensen and Slayden’s larger objective is to complete preclinical studies of one or more promising approaches in a nonhuman primate model and then move a method into early-phase clinical trials in women, with the ultimate goal of developing a low-cost, highly effective non-surgical method with an appropriate delivery technology for voluntary family planning programs in low-resource settings.
While polidocanol foam is the current lead technology, Jensen and Slayden expect that OPERM will identify several new approaches to non-surgical permanent contraception. The Center will administer funds for research projects of various scales and a request for research proposals will be available in late March 2015 (more details to come) for both ONPRC and external investigators.