UC Berkeley Researchers Develop Unisex, Hormone-Free Birth Control

Oral Contraceptive

Earlier this month, a group of scientists at a UC-Berkeley based startup called YourChoice Therapeutics announced an exciting new development in a decade-long effort to create a new method of birth control that would offer all the benefits of hormonal contraceptives without their undesirable side effects such as migraines and weight gain.

The scientists call their non-hormonal contraceptive “the molecular condom,” and they recently confirmed that it could be effective for both men and women.

The contraceptive, which can be taken as a pill, works by targeting sperm cells and depriving them of the energy they need to fertilize an egg. Because men produce sperm cells throughout their entire lives, the contraceptive could offer a safe, reversible and side-effect-free birth control option for anyone of reproductive age. The researchers initially set out to create a hormone-free birth control option for women, but later discovered that it was effective when taken by men as well.

“When you learn about something that is sperm-specific, all the lights go on,” said YourChoice Therapeutics co-founder Nadja Mannowetz in a recent interview. “If we can prevent or in any way change the function of that protein so that sperm cells can not do their usual work, then we are on the good way to start developing a contraceptive.”

Following the latest round of successful testing, the researchers are now preparing for their unisex contraceptive to enter the FDA approval process. YourChoice Therapeutics reportedly hopes to release the contraceptive as an over-the-counter drug by 2025.