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'Shooting blanks': UVa grad developing male contraceptive in Charlottesville

A new form of male birth control with “incredible efficacy” is being developed in Charlottesville by a University of Virginia graduate.

“Contraline is the first company to bring a nonhormonal male contraceptive into clinical trials in over 20 years globally, and we’re currently the only ones in clinical trials,” Contraline co-founder and CEO Kevin Eisenfrats told The Daily Progress at an office on East Jefferson and Ninth streets, where Contraline leases 5,729 square feet of space.

After studying biomedical engineering at UVa, Contraline is now on the verge of creating what he describes as “an IUD for men.”

In what he called a minimally invasive procedure that only requires local anesthesia and lasts 10 to 20 minutes, a gel is injected into the scrotum to keep sperm from escaping.

“So by blocking the sperm, the guy is basically shooting blanks,” Eisenfrats explained. “Think of it like a vasectomy, so it’s extremely effective, but the difference is that this gel is reversible.”

He stresses that the gel is not eliminating sperm, merely blocking it. And the gel is also removable.

Eisenfrats has been interested in reproductive health for years.

“I actually wrote my essay on why there’s no male birth control pill when I was 17 years old,” he said. “I know men really want a new male contraceptive, so I really embarked on this crazy journey of starting a company to develop the first one.”

Studies suggest that half of all pregnancies worldwide are unintended, according to the National Institutes of Health. Currently, the only contraceptive options for men are condoms or vasectomies.

“There is an unfulfilled need for an on-demand, reversible approach,” writes the NIH.

Contraline is aiming for its product to fill that void.

And while women have long bore the responsibility of birth control, Contraline could level the playing field.

Eisenfrats said that the science behind a female birth control is simpler; it has to prevent sperm from reaching a single egg, whereas in male birth control, a method is needed to stop the millions of sperm that men produce every single day.

“By providing a really appealing option for men, I think we’re going to reduce unintended pregnancies and actually alleviate some of the burden that women have to go through as the main bearers of contraception right now,” Eisenfrats said.

While the new technology may be exciting for some, it is still several years from being publicly available.

There have been human trials in Australia, and Contraline hopes clinical trials will begin in the U.S. in the next one or two years. If all goes well, Contraline will bring its product to the market in the next three or four years.

The technology comes as some Republican politicians are trying to make female contraceptives more difficult to access after the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Could that spell trouble for a male contraceptive?

“I think it’s quite the opposite,” Eisenfrats said. “If the government unfortunately is trying to block female products from coming on the market, then let’s create something that men are going to do and kind of change the script a little bit. Change the paradigm and what’s possible.”


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