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WSU Spokane Faculty Member Receives International Award in Male Reproductive Studies

SPOKANE, Wash. — A Washington State University Spokane researcher and co-founder of a biomedical products company has received international recognition for her contributions to the study of male reproduction. Joanna Ellington, associate professor in WSU’s College of Pharmacy and the WSU Spokane Health Research and Education Center, has been awarded the 2003 Young Andrologist Award.

This award is presented by the American Society of Andrology to an individual in the formative phase of her or his career (under 45 years of age) who has made outstanding contributions to the study of male reproduction. Recipients of the annual award are nominated by peers and selected by the society’s executive council. They have included individuals from all around the world. Previous recipients have been affiliated with major medical colleges and federal research institutes.

The award nomination praises Ellington as an internationally recognized scientist in the area of sperm physiology with more than 70 publications in the field, and cites her successful grantsmanship. Ellington has received funding from the National Institutes of Health and has previously been recognized with the Physician Scientist Award and the FIRST Award, as well as other federal funding. Additionally, she has served on federal study sections, in which she reviews and decides on funding for grant proposals from her peers. She has presented scientific presentations to reproductive societies throughout the world.

Ellington received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine in 1984 from the University of Tennessee, and her Ph.D. from Cornell University in 1990, studying under Dr. Robert Foote in reproductive physiology. Ellington is also a board certified diplomat of the American College of Theriogenologists (specialists in animal reproduction), and was nominated as Theriogenologist of the Year in 1999.

For over a decade Ellington has studied how sperm are stored in the Fallopian tube. This work led her to research the damage done to sperm during current methods of assisted reproduction, and the potential public health risks this may pose. Her findings showed increased rates of sperm DNA damage resulting from assisted reproduction; such damage can result in miscarriage, childhood cancers and birth defects. Her recent research grants include funding from the National Institute on Child Health and Development to study the effect of a common antidepressant on sperm health in men, and USDA funding to study the cellular and molecular mechanisms of sperm damage in bulls.

From this research, Ellington co-founded a Spokane company aimed in part at designing a new generation of products for treating infertility by protecting sperm function. Bio~OriGyn plans to launch its first product, a “sperm friendly” intimate moisturizer, within the next 4 months. NIH funding for development of a follow-on new drug product poised to enhance sperm function is pending, and has received a favorable score on a Small Business Innovative Research grant.

According to Bill Gray, WSU Spokane campus executive officer and dean, “Dr. Ellington’s work highlights a key objective of this campus. She has completed basic studies in her field through federal funding, and in collaboration with the regional clinical community has translated this research into patented products for commercial development in the biomedical sector.”

The Young Andrologist Award is sponsored by the Texas Institute for Reproductive Medicine and Endocrinology.

Web sites:
WSU Spokane: www.spokane.wsu.edu
Health Research and Education Center: www.hrec.spokane.wsu.edu
Bio~OriGyn: www.bioorigyn.com
American Society of Andrology: www.andrologysociety.com
News release May 13, 2002 on antidepressant/sperm health study: http://wsunews.wsu.edu/detail.asp?StoryID=3039

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