After receiving U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) product approval in 2008, University of Virginia biotechnology start-up ContraVac Inc. launched nationwide sales of its SpermCheck® Vasectomy kit this past May. The first in a family of products based on technology developed by U.Va. cell biologist John C. Herr, Ph.D., SpermCheck Vasectomy is a home test designed to confirm a man’s sterility in the months following the vasectomy procedure.
Similar in many ways to a home pregnancy test, SpermCheck Vasectomy uses sperm-specific biomarker SP-10, discovered in Herr’s lab, to determine whether a man’s sperm count has fallen below fertile levels. Because sperm can remain in the male reproductive tract for weeks or months after a vasectomy, monitoring post-vasectomy sterility is important in helping men determine when it is safe to discontinue use of condoms or other forms of birth control. SpermCheck Vasectomy enables men to easily monitor their post-vasectomy sterility in the comfort and privacy of their own home.
Available in physicians’ offices across the country and directly from ContraVac’s Web site, www.contravac.com, SpermCheck Vasectomy kits containing two tests are sold for $39.99. More than 1,600 kits have already been sold throughout the United States, and ContraVac is preparing to launch sales throughout Europe and Canada in the coming months.
“SpermCheck Vasectomy makes post-vasectomy sperm testing more convenient and cost effective for both the physician and the patient,” says Edward J. Leary, ContraVac’s president and chief financial officer. “We are excited to offer this innovative product to the global marketplace.”
ContraVac’s next product, SpermCheck® Fertility, has concluded clinical trials and is currently awaiting FDA approval. Also using the SP-10 protein to determine a man’s sperm count, the SpermCheck Fertility home test determines whether a man’s sperm count falls within the fertile, subfertile or infertile range, in accordance with World Health Organization standards.
A third product, SpermCheck® Contraception, is now being used in a multi-institution study funded by the National Institutes of Health to evaluate the effectiveness of a new contraceptive drug for men. When the first FDA-approved male contraceptive drug or device hits the market, SpermCheck Contraception will allow men using the contraceptive to monitor their sperm count.
“The SpermCheck family of products is intended for use by men on both sides of the fertility equation — those who don’t want to father children and those who do,” says Herr, who worked with U.Va. colleagues to develop the platform technology over the past 25 years. Working with the U.Va. Patent Foundation, Herr and his collaborators have received four issued patents pertaining to the SpermCheck technology. ContraVac, which Herr founded with Leary, has licensed the rights to these patents and is currently raising investment capital to expand its sales and marketing infrastructure.