Soon, men may be able to shoulder the burden of contraception without the finality of vasectomy or the muss and fuss of condoms.

The Parsemus Foundation has been busy developing Vasalgel, a potentially reversible form of male birth control that has yielded promising results in a 2014 clinical trial using baboons, as well as in an earlier test on rabbits. According to an update posted on the foundation’s website last week, new funding from the David & Lucile Packard Foundation will allow the Parsemus Foundation to begin human trials next year.

Vasalgel is an injectable, nonhormonal barrier contraceptive that will prevent pregnancy on a long-term basis. (However, it isn’t intended to work as a safeguard against HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.) Vasalgel’s developers are hoping to go mainstream by 2017. Writer Samantha Allen sized up the newcomer in her Daily Beast report Tuesday:

It is essentially a reimagining of a medical technology called RISUG (reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance) that was developed by a doctor named Sujoy Guha over 15 years ago in India, where it has been in clinical trials ever since. Unlike most forms of female birth control, Vasalgel is non-hormonal and only requires a single treatment in order to be effective for an extended period of time. Rather than cutting the vas deferens—as would be done in a vasectomy—a Vasalgel procedure involves the injection of a polymer contraceptive directly into the vas deferens. This polymer will then block any sperm that attempt to pass through the tube. At any point, however, the polymer can be flushed out with a second injection if a man wishes to bring his sperm back up to speed.

As Allen also noted, Vasalgel may pose a threat to Big Pharma in that a contraceptive method consisting of one injection (or two, depending on individual needs) would be less costly than keeping women on birth control pills for the extent of their fertile years. Women who are tired of the pill’s negative side effects and men interested in alternatives to condoms might be interested in joining the Parsemus Foundation’s crowdfunding efforts to make its product a viable alternative on the market.

How this development will affect the contentious debates on contraception and government funding for reproductive health services and products remains to be seen.

— Posted by Donald Kaufman

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