New Frontiers in Contraceptive Research

Type: Consensus Study
Topics: Biomedical and Health Research, Public Health, Women's Health
Board: Board on Health Sciences Policy

Activity Description

A 2002 Global Health Council report presented data showing that between 1995 and 2000, the world's 1.3 billion women between the ages of 15 and 45 experienced more than 1.2 billion pregnancies. Of these, more than 300 million, or more than one quarter, were unintended. Over those six years, nearly 700,000 women died from unintended pregnancies. In North America and Europe, one woman in 4,000 is likely to die from maternal causes. In Africa, one of every 15 women will die of these causes. This data highlights the need for better, safer, and more acceptable methods of contraception. Although the number of contraceptive options has increased, the range of choices still does not meet the needs of many women and couples.

The Board on Health Sciences Policy, with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, convened a new study to explore novel approaches to contraceptive research and development. Recent advances in biomedical research have provided exciting new opportunities for studying the basic biology of reproduction, which could in turn lead to the discovery of novel targets for contraception. In particular, the tools and technologies of genomics and proteomics could be brought to bear on the development of radically new approaches to contraception. Novel models for the development of drugs and other products could also provide new insight for creating innovative contraceptives once potential targets have been identified.

The IOM convened a 2-day International Symposium on New Frontiers in Contraceptive Research on July 15-16, 2003 to explore scientific opportunities for improving contraceptives. The symposium brought together expertise from many areas including contraception, basic reproductive biology, new technologies, product development, behavioral science, and international health. The objective was to bring new concepts and analytical frameworks to the discussion of contraceptive research and development. Opportunities were provided for attendees to discuss ideas and options, and to formulate potential recommendations. At the conclusion of the study, the committee released a report that summarizes the critical issues discussed at the symposium and makes recommendations for priority areas for future research and development in the field of contraception.

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