Supporting the next generation of researchers ensures male contraception research and development will continue as new and better methods become a market reality.
MCI Fellows are a mix of graduate and postdoctoral trainees, all working towards creating non-hormonal, reversible male contraceptive methods. Our support allows them to focus on the research, publish data, and build the background they need to sustain a long career as an investigator.
The next generation of male contraceptives are being developed by some of the brightest minds at the world's best institutions and organizations.
Our Fellows Melanie Balbach, Jae Yeon Hwang, and Max Lyon shared updates on the male contraceptives they are working on during a Lemonade Stand webinar in order to provide a window into the research and development process.
MCI's Fellowship Program is designed to give talented young researchers a path towards success. Dr. Aaron Crapster was one of MCI's first fellows in 2018. Aaron's fellowship gave him support for a project that he might not have been able to work on otherwise.
Because of MCI's support, Aaron has since taken that work and applied it at Vibliome Therapeutics, a startup that's also developing novel male contraceptives.
Brendan is a postdoctoral researcher working with Moira O’Bryan at the Bio21 Institute and School of BioSciences at the University of Melbourne, Australia. His research has recently shown that malate dehydrogenase 1B (MDH1B), a novel sperm specific energy protein, is essential for male fertility. MDH1B appears to be a sperm specific version of the systemically expressed MDH1 protein that plays a key role in metabolism. Brendan is now characterizing the precise role of MDH1B in sperm function and male fertility using a knockout mouse model. He is also developing an assay to test the activity of MDH1 and MDH1B, and collaborating with experts in drug design to develop compounds that selectively target MDH1B. These approaches will collectively assess the feasibility of MDH1B as a contraceptive target.
Carla is a postdoctoral researcher at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City. Her project is on sAC, an adenylyl cyclase essential for sperm to reach and fertilize the oocyte. In a collaborative project across institutions, the Levin/Buck laboratory successfully developed highly potent and selective sAC inhibitors. Carla will test the efficacy of the different candidate molecules on human sperm capacitation. With MCI’s support, she can push this project one step closer towards the development of a male contraceptive.
Candice is a PhD candidate in Dr Zhibing Zhang’s lab at the Department of Physiology, Wayne State University. Her research revolves around the investigation of the association between PACRG (parkin co regulated gene) and DNALI1 (dynein light intermediate polypeptide 1). As this association is crucial for normal spermiogenesis to take place, her goal is to identify a compound that disrupts PACRG/DNALI1 interaction as a form of male-based contraceptive. MCI’s support allows Candice to further develop her research techniques and prepares her for a career after graduate school.
Oleksandr is a PhD candidate in the Geyer laboratory at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina. His work is focused on defining the mechanisms underlying spermatogonial differentiation and meiotic initiation. Using a novel transgenic mouse model, Oleksandr is isolating large pure populations of spermatogonia at each stage of their development and employing broad-based ‘omics technologies to define the transcriptome, translatome, and proteome during this understudied phase of male germ cell development. His goal is to identify specific molecular contraceptive targets for drug design in differentiating spermatogonia and preleptotene spermatocytes, which both reside outside the blood-testis-barrier. MCI’s support enables him to complete these exciting studies and prepare for a career in the reproductive sciences after graduate school.
Saman is a PhD candidate at University of Massachusetts Amherst in Dr. Pablo Visconti’s lab studying the role of testis specific serine kinases (TSSKs) on male fertility. TSSKs are kinases present in both germ cells and mature sperm, leading us to hypothesize that they are essential for sperm differentiation and maturation. MCI fellowship allows Saman to learn advance instrumental techniques along with impressive collaborations to target TSSKs as novel male contraceptives.
Noman is a PhD candidate in the Georg group at the University of Minnesota in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry and the Institute for Therapeutics Discovery and Development. His research goal is to develop RARɑ antagonists as male contraceptive agents. RARɑ is a receptor for vitamin A metabolite - retinoic acid - and is essential for the production of sperm. Noman aims to block RARɑ signaling using drug-like small molecules to inhibit the sperm production. Support from MCI allows him to expand his work, learn new skills, and advance his career.
Melanie is a postdoctoral researcher at Weill Cornell in New York City working on soluble adenylyl cyclase (sAC), a protein essential for sperm motility and capacitation. Melanie is working across disciplines to develop an inhibitor of sAC that could be used as a contraceptive. MCI’s Fellowship Program allows her to collaborate with unique partnerships and gain new skills in drug development, all within the realm of male contraception.
Aaron was recently a postdoctoral researcher in Palo Alto, California working at Stanford University. His research was on HIPK4, a novel protein kinase expressed in the testes. Aaron is trying to understand the roles of HIPK4 in sperm development and function with the aim of understanding more about the protein as a target for contraception. MCI’s Fellowship Program not only allowed Aaron to focus on a contraceptive project, but allowed him to publish his work and move on to a career at Vibliome Therapeutics – continuing his contraceptive focus. Read more about Aaron’s work here.
As a graduate student at Berkeley, Liliya works in the Lishko Lab on sperm motility. Her project is seeking to develop ANT4 as a male contraceptive. ANT4 is involved in the transport of energy in mature sperm cells and is required for them to swim. Liliya’s work is looking for interesting ways of shutting down ANT4, and making spermatozoa nonmotile. With MCI’s support, Liliya has funding to grow her career and investigate an exciting project.
Jae Yeon is a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of Jean-Ju Chung at Yale. He’s working on CatSper, one of the most interesting, but stymieing contraceptive targets. CatSper is required for male fertility, but is difficult to study because of its complexity. Jae Yeon is developing a new screening platform that makes it easier to develop drugs for CatSper. With MCI’s support, he can push this target closer to the main stage.
Max is a graduate student in the lab of Celia Santi at WashU in St. Louis. His project is on SLO3, a protein in sperm required for capacitation and fertilization. In a collaborative project across institutions and fields, Max is testing inhibitors of SLO3 and making spermatozoa nonmotile. With MCI’s support, Max has the funding to focus on the science, publish his work, and build a career.
Interested in becoming an MCI Fellow? More information on our Funding page.