The Parsemus Foundation, located in San Francisco, CA, is a small private operating foundation that was incorporated in 2005 and is registered as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. The Parsemus Foundation’s mission is to create meaningful improvements in human and animal health and welfare by advancing innovative and neglected medical research. To make the most use of limited resources, the Parsemus Foundation works by funding key proof-of-concept studies and then publicizing them so that advances change treatment practice rather than disappearing into the scientific literature. Many of the studies supported by Parsemus involve low-cost approaches that are not under patent. The Foundation also leverages funding from larger foundations for the next stages of research and development of key projects.
The Parsemus Foundation is the brainchild of Elaine Lissner, an advocate for evidence-based medicine and male contraception, among other passions. Lissner 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 involving heating the testes in warm baths 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).
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 often has a personal connection to the research areas supported by the Foundation and has always been intimately involved in funded projects. For example, when she learned that a physician had recommended her father undergo an angiogram, she began doing some research on her own. She was worried that her father might receive an unnecessary procedure as a result of the angiogram, and after consulting with leading experts, her father was treated with medical therapy and lifestyle changes instead. Lissner publicized her findings on the Parsemus Foundation’s website. Additionally, the experience prompted a one-time, unrestricted gift in 2010 to the Archives of Internal Medicine’s popular “Less-is-more” series which focuses on medical cases in which “less healthcare results in better health.”
From nonsurgical dog and cat sterilization to breast cancer and food allergies, Elaine Lissner has been a voice for neglected options not likely to gain the attention of profit-motivated pharmaceuticals. She has led the Parsemus Foundation to debunk medical myths, develop new low-cost healthcare options for humans and animals, and publicize the results to physicians, veterinarians and the public. And people take notice when Ms. Lissner speaks: the Foundation’s work has been featured in numerous online and print outlets including WIRED, BBC News, Scientific American, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal.
The Parsemus Foundation’s work is supported by a small dedicated team that helps to oversee operations, grants and publications, and long-term research projects such as Vasalgel. Collaborators from across the globe work with Ms. Lissner to implement research projects and proof of concept studies. A number of advisors provide expert advice on various scientific and technical topics to aid the Foundation in making strategic decisions.
The Parsemus Foundation works on a diverse set of topics, but the main focus of the organization has been on the development of Vasalgel male contraceptive, Calchlorin nonsurgical pet sterilant and alternatives to aromatase inhibitors for breast cancer treatment. Much of the Parsemus Foundation’s efforts are currently expended on the Vasalgel project, and the Foundation is not taking on new project areas at this time. Applications for support are by invitation only except where specifically noted.