Scientists Working on Drug to Indefinitely Delay Menopause

A pharma company called Oviva Therapeutics is working on a startling idea: a drug intended to let women to choose when — or even if — they go through menopause.

"This drug couldn’t just delay the menopause, it could actually prevent it," founder Daisy Robinton told the Daily Mail.

In interviews around her presentation at last week's Livelong Summit, Robinton talked a big game about her firm. The company nabbed a $12 million licensing deal with Mass General in 2022, though its menopause treatment is still in the mouse trial phase, and as such is almost certainly years away from any potential product entering the market, if it ever does.

"The work that we're doing at Oviva Therapeutics looks to the ovaries as fundamental to our health and well-being," she told Pharmacy Times ahead of her talk at the conference, which was held last week in Palm Beach, Florida, "and has the goal of being able to preserve ovarian function for a greater period of time so that we can extend health span for women and make menopause something that can be optional through therapeutic intervention."

It's a pretty wild pitch: instead of waiting for menopause — changes associated with the end of menstrual cycles — Robinton's startup is proposing a world in which women and other people who menstruate could get an injection every few months to stave off those bodily changes as long as they wanted.

The injections would use the glycoprotein known as anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH), which helps determine a child's sex when they're still in the womb and is later associated with both sperm and egg growth.

Because AMH levels begin to drop after the age of 25 and bottom out during menopause, which generally occurs between the ages of 45 and 55, Oviva's betting big that injections of the hormone could rejuvenate the ovaries and delay menopause.

In an interview with Bloomberg in December about the promising animal trials that led to the creation of Oviva, cofounder and Mass General molecular biologist David Pépin explained that when researching AMH as a potential treatment for ovarian cancer more than a decade ago, he discovered something incredible: that injections of the hormone in rats with ovarian tumors seemed to turn back the clock, making their ovaries appear like those of a newborn.

"It was basically Benjamin Button, going backwards," Pépin told Bloomberg. "I was like, 'OK, something big is happening.'"

Safety could be a concern. Prior research into estrogen injections as a form of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to treat menopause symptoms found they were linked to an increased risk of cancer.

As with everything in the for-profit biomedical space, separating the science from the investor-oriented talk is always important — but at the very least, it's a fascinating vision of a future in which we'd have more control over our bodies than ever before.

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