OHSU Reproductive Scientist to Investigate Whether Therapy Used to Treat Varicose Veins Can Prevent Unwanted Pregnancy

11/11/10  Portland, Ore.

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funds innovative OHSU study of nonsurgical family planning option for women in developing countries where physicians are scarce

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded nationally prominent Oregon Health & Science University reproductive scientist Jeffrey T. Jensen, M.D., M.P.H., a $100,000 grant to investigate the safety and effectiveness of a novel low-cost family-planning option that may be applicable to women in low-resource countries worldwide.

“The commitment by the Gates Foundation to place family planning as a major priority for funding has been a big boost to investigators in this field. A safe, low-cost method of permanent female sterilization would meet the needs of many women worldwide and have a major impact on reducing total fertility rates and poverty,” said Jensen, Leon Speroff Professor and Vice Chair for Research in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, OHSU School of Medicine; and affiliate scientist in reproductive science at the OHSU Oregon National Primate Research Center.

Jensen is one of 65 investigators in 16 countries to receive funding in the fifth round of Grand Challenges Explorations, an initiative to help scientists around the world explore bold and largely unproven ways to improve health in developing countries. The initiative is highly competitive, receiving more than 2,400 proposals in this round.

To receive funding, Jensen demonstrated how his idea falls outside current scientific paradigms and might lead to significant advances in global health. He proposed that a highly effective and low-cost technique of nonsurgical female sterilization could be easily administered by non-physician health care workers and provide a game-changing family planning strategy well suited to the needs of women in low resource settings like south Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, as well as more developed regions. Although several human studies of non-surgical sterilization have been completed, concerns regarding safety and efficacy have hampered development.

With this grant, Jensen will use a nonhuman primate model, the rhesus macaque, to investigate whether the transcervical administration — through the cervix or opening of the uterus — of polidocanol foam will result in permanent closure of the fallopian tube and infertility. Polidocanol is an FDA-approved agent currently used to treat varicose and spider veins. It works by causing excess connective tissue to form within the cell lining of blood vessels, collapsing and closing the vessels.

“Use of the rhesus macaque model will allow for extensive study of this method to ensure both safety and efficacy. If successful, the results could be rapidly translated into human clinical trials,” explained Jensen.

“These are bold ideas from innovative thinkers, which is exactly what we need in global health research right now, “ said Tachi Yamada, M.D., president of the Gates Foundation’s Global Health Program. “I'm excited to see some of these daring projects develop into life-saving breakthroughs for those who need them the most.”

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Particulars
Dr. Jensen’s research centers on reducing unintended pregnancy by expanding contraceptive options and improving existing birth control methods. Jensen is the Principal Investigator (PI) at OHSU for the National Institute of Child Health and Development-funded (NICHD-funded) Contraceptive Clinical Trial Network, and is Co-PI of the NICHD-funded Contraception Research Development Center at ONPRC. He also is a member of the International Committee for Contraceptive Research.

About Grand Challenges Explorations
Grand Challenges Explorations is a five-year, $100 million initiative of the Gates Foundation to promote innovation in global health. The program uses an agile, streamlined grant process – applications are limited to two pages, and preliminary data are not required. Proposals are reviewed and selected by a committee of foundation staff and external experts, and grant decisions are made within approximately three months of the close of the funding round. The next round of Grand Challenges Explorations will open in March 2011. More information, including grant application instructions and a list of topics for which proposals will be accepted, will be available at www.grandchallenges.org/explorations.

About OHSU

The Oregon Health & Science University is the state's only health and research university, and Oregon's only academic health center. OHSU is Portland's largest employer and the fourth largest in Oregon (excluding government). OHSU’s size contributes to its ability to provide many services and community support activities not found anywhere else in the state. OHSU serves patients from every corner of the state, and is a conduit for learning for more than 3,400 students and trainees. OHSU is the source of more than 200 community outreach programs that bring health and education services to every county in the state.