Thursday, May 14, 2009

Charlottesville Biotech Ships "SpermCheck" Product

This is great news for Ed Leary's company, ContraVac. Several new products on the way.

Charlottesville company sends out its home male sterility tests

A Charlottesville biotech company has begun shipping out samples of its cutting-edge home tests for male sterility. ContraVac, located off Preston Avenue, is dispatching its SpermCheck Vasectomy test to urologists across the country.

The test, which is based on a protein discovered at the University of Virginia, aims to measure a man’s sperm count following a vasectomy.

According to the World Health Organization, a fertile male has a sperm count of 20 million sperm per milliliter. The SpermCheck Vasectomy tests if a vasectomy recipient has a sperm count of above or below 250,000 sperm per milliliter, essentially a trace level of sperm. ContraVac President and CEO Ed Leary said the home test can replace a follow-up appointment after a vasectomy operation. Often, he said, patients skip the follow-up appointment, during which they must provide a sperm sample.

“For the patient, it’s inconvenient and embarrassing,” he said.

A study that appeared recently in the British Journal of Medicine found that 35 percent of vasectomy patients do not return for their first sperm-level test following a vasectomy. More than 70 percent do not return for their second.
While the success rate of vasectomy operations is fairly high, one of every 238 vasectomies results in at least a partial failure, Leary said. The SpermCheck Vasectomy test ensures the procedure worked.

“There is an overall cost saving,” Leary said. “It saves the patient time and it saves the physician time.”

The test kit, which will soon be available at many urology practices and vasectomy clinics, carries a price tag of $39.99. Some 1.5 million men have vasectomies each year worldwide. In the United States, there are an estimated 500,000 such procedures each year. The Charlottesville company’s technology is based on inventions by the firm’s founder, John C. Herr, a UVa professor of cell biology and director of UVa’s Center for Research in Contraceptive and Reproductive Health.

ContraVac has another product, called Sperm-Check Fertility, which is targeted at couples trying to conceive. SpermCheck Fertility measures if a male’s sperm count is above or below 20 million sperm per milliliter, essentially showing if he is fertile or subfertile. ContraVac has filed for Food and Drug Administration approval of SpermCheck Fertility. The company expects the product will be approved by the end of July. SpermCheck Fertility will be sold at pharmacies across the country, Leary said, ideally alongside home pregnancy tests. The company is also working on a third product, a new contraceptive drug for men. The drug, called SpermCheck Contraception, is being tested in a multi-center National Institutes of Health-funded study.

“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,” Herr said in a statement.

In an interview, Herr said it is exciting to see products finally come to market that are based on his scientific breakthroughs.
“It’s all coming together,” he said.

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