Founder and Trustee of Parsemus Foundation
Board of Trustees, Revolution Contraceptives, LLC
Elaine Lissner grew up in the Bay Area and can trace her interest in male contraception to her freshman year at Stanford. There she read a book that described a low-tech birth control method which was shown to be effective in the 1950s, but never caught on. She researched the topic of non-hormonal male contraceptive methods for a college course and wondered why no one was pursuing simple male options. She wrote several popular articles on the topic, and shortly thereafter started the nonprofit Male Contraception Information Project to increase awareness about nonhormonal male contraception and convey the public’s demand to policy makers (check out this Priceonomics article for an in-depth look at Elaine’s motivation to develop a new male contraceptive). Lissner was founder and director of the Male Contraception Information Project in the early 1990’s and director from 2001 until passing the baton to the newly-formed Male Contraception Initiative (now the Male Contraceptive Initiative) in 2014-2015.
In 2005, Ms. Lissner founded the Parsemus Foundation to support further research on male contraceptives and other areas. Lissner has the ability and perseverance to scour research publications on various scientific topics she encounters, synthesize findings and locate promising advances that for one reason or another were never followed through. She has often had a personal connection to the research areas supported by the Foundation and has always been intimately involved in funded projects. For example, her research into the necessity of an angiogram that was recommended for a relative led the foundation to fund the Archives of Internal Medicine’s popular “Less-is-more” series, which focuses on overused medical treatments and continues to this day.
The foundation’s research has pursued lower-cost or less invasive solutions in areas of interest that linked to reproductive health in some way, ranging from contraception and sterilization (in humans and pets) to breast cancer and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) treatment. Ms. Lissner has served on the advisory board of the Alliance for Contraception in Cats and Dogs and enjoys the intersectionality between the foundation’s related subject areas, such as when nonsurgical pet sterilization led to a potential tumor treatment, or human breast cancer research led to new ideas about healthy aging in dogs.
Ms. Lissner’s main focus over the past fifteen years has been on the development of Vasalgel, a nonhormonal, long-acting male contraceptive. She has been a thought leader on reproductive health and male contraception and was an invited participant in the Gates Foundation’s Contraceptive Technology Expert Convening. Her publications include “Frontiers in Nonhormonal Male Contraception: A Call for Research”, and the foundation’s work has been featured in Scientific American, BBC News, the New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal.
Most recently, Ms. Lissner has served as a funder, advocate, and strategist for the effort to complete clinical trials of existing medications for COVID-19 treatment, including the MMR vaccine, metformin, and fluvoxamine. She has collaborated with other funders to support this work because federal funding has been limited. Ms. Lissner also worked tirelessly to increase enrollment for the clinical trials.