Wois’s generous contribution has allowed the grantees of Repro Grants conduct invaluable research

Repro Grants is a “fast grants” program, inspired by Impetus and Fast Grants, that awards $25,000 - $100,000 to ambitious research projects aiming to deepen the world’s understanding of the female reproductive system. 
It’s hard to build novel products without great science. When it comes to women’s health, we still don't have answers to very basic questions: What causes endometriosis, and what’s the cure? Why do ovaries age faster than any other organs? How can we delay the aging process? What is a good quality human oocyte (egg)?

There reason we don’t have these answers is because research in female reproductive health is long overdue. It was only in 1993 that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) mandated that clinical trials should be run on both men and women. Before that, the male body was the “medical norm”, with almost all medical research, including drug and diagnostic development, conducted exclusively on male bodies. Still, women’s health attracts only a minuscule percentage of all science funding – about 11% of all NIH funding in 2019,” said investor at Fifty Years and a project lead of Repro Grants Sara Kemppainen.
Fifty Years, an early-stage VC firm based in SF that supports scientists in becoming great founders, recognized the urgency to expedite research in this chronically underfunded but increasingly politicized field of biology and launched Repro Grants in November 2022. So far Repro Grants is supporting 8 research projects solving problems that impact millions of women around the world – endometriosis, ovarian aging, infertility, and limited contraceptives options. 

We’re excited to fund the next generation of scientists because where only a few have gone, a lot is left to discover.

Will we decode the sources of 1 million (per year) miscarriages and alleviate heartache from expecting families? Will we uncover the fountain of youth by deciphering the signaling pathways of rapidly aging ovaries? Will we unlock potential cures for dreadful conditions like endometriosis? We just might! But what is certain: as long as we fail to fund research at the earliest, most fundamental levels, we cannot expect to magically deliver safe, effective, and life-saving products for women. If we succeed at bridging the research gap, the world will look drastically better,” Sara said.
Repro Grants team celebrates receiving 465 applications in just one month
Repro Grants was expecting 100 applications, however managed to receive a positively overwhelming number of applications in just one month – 465 applications! In 2 weeks it was necessary to double scientific reviewer count to respond all the applicants on time.

We are glad to share with you that Repro Grants received applications from all the top labs and from all the top research institutes (Harvard, Oxford, MIT, Stanford, etc.) from 40 different countries.

Some of the smartest people in the world are eager to solve women’s health problems. We just need to give them the resources to do so. We ended up funding 8 projects with an acceptance rate of 1.7% (compared to the 2020 NIH acceptance rate of 19%),” Sara gladly shared.
Repro Grants is facing challenges with capital constraints and fundraising. There are five more projects that Repro Grants strongly believes in and thus will begin additional fundraising this quarter. These projects include research on the impact of oral contraceptives on the adolescent brain, identifying multiple types of endometriosis, and genetic causes of preeclampsia.
 “I would like to share with you two specific fundamental research proposals for women’s reproductive health that we managed to support,” Sara says as she elaborates on Repro Grants’ achievements.”

How does endometriosis disturb human embryo implantation?

Research proposal: Modeling human implantation in 3D to uncover causes of infertility in endometriosis
“Endometriosis (growth of uterine lining outside the uterus) is associated with infertility for reasons that are not well understood. Why? We cannot simply open the human body and see what happens at the beginning of a pregnancy,” Sara explained. 

“The recipient, Berna Sozen at Yale University, is a young and ambitious PI whose group in collaboration with Hugh Taylor is developing a 3D model of early human development to better understand how conditions like endometriosis deter embryo implantation. Due to the high-risk nature and embryonic components, this research cannot be funded by the NIH, making it a perfect fit for Repro Grants,” Sara added.

How does pregnancy alter the brain? 

Research proposal: Organizational effects of sex steroid hormones on the maternal brain
“Women undergo pronounced physical changes during pregnancy, yet the extent to which pregnancy shapes brain structure and function is greatly understudied. Building on foundational work comparing the brain pre-pregnancy to post-partum (see Hoekzema et al., 2022, 2017; Kim et al., 2010; Orchard et al., 2023), the Jacobs lab is conducting a dense sampling study to map the structural and functional architecture of the brain across the complete gestational window. The resulting research insights have the potential to lay the groundwork for identifying biomarkers of postpartum depression prior to symptom onset,” Sara said. 

“This research proposal was an ideal fit for Repro Grants – the lab was inspired by the application call and used this opportunity to expand on the Jacobs lab’s expertise in endocrinology and neuroscience to come up with the highest risk, highest reward work to help accelerate female reproductive health,” Sara added. 
Repro Grants is committed to running the program with more capital and manpower. A new grant cycle will most likely happen by the end of 2023 or early 2024. 
More about the people behind Repro Grants:
Sara Kemppainen: is an investor at Fifty Years and a project lead of Repro Grants. She is particularly interested in supporting founders and researchers who are solving complex problems traditionally overlooked by investors. Before joining Fifty Years, Sara was Head of Program at Slush.