Grants for Strengthening the Contraceptive R&D Ecosystem in Africa

Grants for Strengthening the Contraceptive R&D Ecosystem in Africa


Family planning is one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce maternal, infant and child mortality and contributes to the empowerment of women and families, as well as to the expansion of opportunities for economic development.

In recent decades, there have been tremendous improvements in the reproductive health of women in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) and dramatic increases in use of modern contraception. As of 2019, more than half of the 1.6 billion women of reproductive age (15–49 years) living in LMICs want to avoid a pregnancy so the need for contraception is great.

Globally, approximately 257 million women had an unmet need for modern contraception—that is, they want to avoid a pregnancy but were not using a modern method. Almost half of pregnancies in LMICs—111 million annually—are unintended, with over 75% occurring among women who want to avoid a pregnancy but are not using modern contraceptives.

While current contraceptives include exceptionally safe and effective options, not all methods are suitable for or acceptable to all women at all stages of their reproductive lives, and concerns about undesirable side effects remain a significant barrier to greater uptake and continued use of existing methods.

As a result, women who desire to avoid pregnancy often find themselves without viable options that meet their needs. Overall, among women with unmet need, 26% cite side effects/health risks as the primary reason for their non-use, with 24% reporting infrequent or no sexual activity.

Among undesired side effects, women report that bleeding changes (longer/heavier periods, spotting between periods, and amenorrhea) are least likely to be tolerated in a contraceptive and are a leading concern raised by women who discontinue and/or avoid use of hormonal contraceptives. Fear of hormonal use and its impact on health and fertility results in modern method non-use in some women.

Despite this, innovation leading to new contraceptive products suitable for use in LMICs has been limited. Much of the product development that has occurred has been innovations in delivery of the same classes of hormones, which cause similar side effects and do not fully address women’s underlying issues and concerns.

Additionally, while the proportion
of women who have an unmet need for modern contraception is highest in Sub-Saharan Africa, contraceptive R&D is very limited in Africa.

The Challenge

This RFP seeks innovations that contribute to development of safe and effective non-hormonal contraceptives that meet the needs and interests of women and that address key barriers in accessing and using currently available methods. We are seeking non-hormonal contraceptives that are easy to access, discreet, convenient, and non-invasive.

Additionally, it is important that these methods have tolerable side effects and do not impact the menstrual cycle. This work will be led by Grand Challenges Africa, a program of the Science for Africa Foundation with funding support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The ultimate goal is development of novel non-hormonal female contraceptives that 1) provide safe and effective contraception, 2) do not contain sex steroid hormones or rely on hormonal mechanisms of action (e.g., do not impact the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis), 3) do not disrupt endogenous menstrual bleeding patterns, and 4) are suitable and appropriate for use in LMICs.

The overall goal is to reduce the unmet need for contraception by enhancing contraceptive uptake, continuation, and satisfaction among reproductive aged adolescent girls and women who want to avoid pregnancy. Contraceptive product innovation is required to achieve this goal.

Equally as important, is the goal to invest in local scientific capacity in LMICs in particular to build and strengthen capacity of African scientists and institutions to conduct R&D around development of novel contraceptive products.

This Grand Challenges Africa opportunity aims to expand locally led, gender-equal R&D capacity in Africa and begin to foster a thriving contraceptive R&D ecosystem on the African continent with a collaborative network of scientists working together to innovate around contraceptive R&D.

This Grand Challenges request for proposals intends to fund awards of up to USD $350,000 and for up to 2 years, based on the scope of the proposed project.

How to Apply

For more information and job application details, see; Grants for Strengthening the Contraceptive R&D Ecosystem in Africa

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