The Artificial Testicle: Funded!

It is the stuff of dreams in academic medicine: an NIH (National Institutes of Health) research grant. Get one of these and you’re pretty much assured of getting tenure and succeeding at any major U.S. university. It is the ultimate stamp of approval from the government and society that your thoughts and ideas have merit and value.
And I was just awarded one!

NIH Funds the Artificial Testicle

Yes, the federal grant that we submitted recently to build a human artificial testicle was funded.  To be clear, this grant is not about creating a testicular implant for a man who is missing a real one. We did that a decade or so ago. This award is to develop a sperm making biological machine. I wrote it along with Dr. Connie John, CEO at MandalMed, Inc., a biotechnology company in the Bay Area. We now have a couple of years to create human artificial sperm in a dish, or more formally, a “bioreactor.” A fancy dish to be sure.
You’ve seen the posts on how successful this research has been in mice models using various stem cells as a starting point: embryonic stem cells, adult stem cells and early germ line (spermatogonial) stem cells. In labs all over the world, real, live, fertile sperm have been made in animal models from each of these stem cell precursors. Honestly, given this success over the past several years, surely we can figure out how to do the same in humans.

Why Do I Need NIH Funding?

Funny thing is, I am not in academic medicine anymore. No tenure to deal with and no need to prove anything to anyone but myself and to legions of loyal patients who depend on cutting edge innovation for their infertility care. Personally, feeling the suffering of patients with infertility is far more motivating than doing science for the sake of science, or for the sake of tenure.
Not to compare myself to Steve Jobs in any way, but I can’t help think one of his favorite mottos from the Whole Earth Catalog. This is what guided him in his quest to build a better computer for everyone: “Stay hungry; stay foolish.” It feels absolutely fabulous to be able to dream it, write it and finally to do it. The essence of science for the good of people.

Press Release

Effort to Build Artificial Testicle Awarded NIH Grant

Released: 1/9/2012 1:45 PM EST
Source: The Turek Clinic

Proposal to make human sperm from stem cells receives government funding

Newswise — SAN FRANCISCO, CA. January 9, 2012. Dr. Paul Turek, Director and Founder of The Turek Clinic, a men’s health medical practice, and Dr. Constance John, chief executive of MandalMed, Inc, a San Francisco-based biotech company, were recently awarded a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to construct an artificial human testicle and research how sperm are made from stem cells.
“Fertile sperm can be made from various stem cells in mice, but making human sperm from these same sources has been elusive,” says Turek, a practicing male infertility specialist in San Francisco. In this project, they will try to produce mature human sperm in a live laboratory model of a human testicle.
This work extends on previously published research by Dr. Turek on human testicular stem cells, the forerunners of sperm. Dr. John is an expert on human Sertoli cells, which critically nurture sperm as they develop in the testicle. “This grant is quite an honor and comes after several years working together on this idea,” notes Turek. “We have assembled a great group of scientists who are very committed to its success.”
A functioning artificial testicle has important implications for the field of reproductive biology. It could shed enormous light on the intricate details behind the mysterious and complicated process of spermatogenesis or sperm production. Even further, it could be used to later develop patient-specific, fertile sperm for men who simply do not make sperm due to genetic or acquired causes.
About Paul Turek, MD
Paul Turek, MD is founder of The Turek Clinic and a former professor and endowed chair at the University of California San Francisco. As a men’s reproductive health expert, he has pioneered innovative techniques for treating male infertility, including Testicular Mapping. In addition to his appointment to the Cooperative Reproductive Network Advisory Board, Dr. Turek sits on the Advisory Board for the Men’s Health Network, Fertile Hope and is President-Elect of the Society of Male Reproduction and Urology. He is Chief Medical Officer at MandalMed, Inc, and is also Past-President of the American Society of Andrology and of the Northern California Urology Society and is an Editorial Board member of several journals including Systems Biology in Reproductive Medicine, the Asian Journal of Andrology and the International Brazilian Journal of Urology.
A complete biography of Dr. Turek is available on Wikipedia at
About The Turek Clinic
The Turek Clinic, founded in 2008, is a men’s reproductive health practice specializing in male infertility, vasectomy, vasectomy reversal, varicocele repair, and other minimally invasive procedures using innovative and cutting-edge techniques. For more information, visit,, or Dr. Turek’s blog (here).
About MandalMed, Inc.
MandalMed is a privately held biotechnology company located in San Francisco- the home of more bioscience companies than any other region in the world. MandalMed’s mission is to develop pharmaceutical products of worldwide significance. Areas where there is a great need for better treatments, including cancer and neurological conditions, are the targets of MandalMed’s research and development programs. For more information, see