top of page
  • Writer's pictureJoey Amato

Openly Gay Co-Founders Developing Male Birth Control Pill

With one of the highest rates of unintended pregnancy among affluent nations, the need for access to effective birth control has never been more critical than it is today in the U.S. 46% of all pregnancies are unintended. Additionally, the longstanding right to pregnancy termination has been eliminated in more than half of the nation, which demands that we continue to explore new approaches to prevent unplanned pregnancies.

At the same time, modern men no longer view contraception as “a woman’s job” and want to share the burden of pregnancy prevention, an interesting cultural shift. More than 70% of women and men say birth control should be a shared responsibility. Men want to help, but their options are limited to condoms and vasectomy, which have significant limitations. Condoms have an 18 percent failure rate and while vasectomy is an option, it is impractical for teenage boys and for men who desire children as there is no guarantee of reversibility.

While views and opinions of contraception have modernized, options have not. A male birth control pill is not a new idea. The development of both male and female contraceptive pills started in parallel more than 70 years ago. When researchers realized a non-hormonal approach to male contraception would require men to abstain from alcohol, studies for the male birth control option ended yet approaches for women proceeded.

Researchers identified that impairing testosterone levels offered a graceful way to impede sperm production. In the 1990s, the World Health Organization (WHO) funded and conducted a multinational study but they abruptly ended the study after participants complained of side effects, ironically similar to the side effects women have endured for decades. This failure soured big pharma’s appetite and male contraceptive development abruptly came to an end.

The side effects of hormone-based birth control are repelling young women and have stymied the introduction of new male methods, spotlighting the need for hormone-free options beyond vasectomy and condoms. Hormone-free birth control options have the potential to offer men a more acceptable, effective and tolerable way to participate in pregnancy prevention. This could transform society in many ways. First by reducing the hormonal burden for women and during this period of narrowing reproductive freedoms, it could also reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies and the associated psychological, physical, emotional, financial and health burdens.

Enter Sperm Biologist Nadja Mannowetz and her business partner Akash Bakshi, who are co-founders of YourChoice Therapeutics, – a San Francisco based start-up studying the first hormone-free male birth control pill. Ironically, both Akash and Nadja will never personally benefit from the company they’ve dedicated their professional lives to. Akash is a gay man, and Nadja is a lesbian woman.

Their drug candidate, YCT-529, spun out of the University of Minnesota and accelerated through the W19 Y Combinator batch. YCT-529 is a hormone free male birth control candidate that stops sperm production by blocking access to retinoic acid - a metabolite of vitamin A - in male testes, a mechanism that has been validated in multiple independent studies. Preclinical mouse studies, funded in part by the National Institutes of Health, showed YCT-529 is 99% effective in preventing pregnancy and 100% reversible with no side effects. YourChoice further demonstrated the efficacy and safety of YCT-529 in rats, dogs and non-human primates.

YourChoice is making history in countless ways. The company is in a class of its own as there are few queer CEOs in biotech and are even fewer—if any—entire C-level suites comprised of queer executives. In December 2023, YourChoice researchers made history when they began a phase 1a clinical study of YCT-529 as the first hormone-free birth control pill for men.

There is no question the next monumental advance in contraception will be a birth control pill for men. Thanks to YourChoice Therapeutics, we won’t have to wait another 70 years.

13 views0 comments


bottom of page