Forward progress and future goals: End of the year reflections from the IMPT

The IMPT offices are always a buzz with activity during the months of November and December. Giving Tuesday, World AIDS Day, as well as general end-of-the year wrap ups—it is a reminder that for organizations like ours, this time of year is a time for increased activism, awareness, and reflection. This year, as the IMPT celebrates a decade of progress in the MPT field, we recognize both forward progress and future goals as we continually work to bring MPTs closer to a reality that will improve the lives of women and girls worldwide.

Over the past ten years we are proud to have taken MPTs from the early stages of a novel idea building upon decades of contraceptive and HIV prevention research, to a full-fledged field with over thirty products in the product development pipeline. As Founder and IMPT Director Dr. Bethany Young Holt recently reflected: “In 2001, after seeing that the women I was working to serve in Senegal as well as the San Francisco Bay Area were facing the same interwoven sexual and reproductive health problems—requiring prevention against unintended pregnancy as well HIV and other STIs—the answer was just staring at us in the face. One product. Multiple indications. Why wasn’t anyone developing this?” Over the next eight years the MPT concept and field blossomed thanks to innovative thinkers across the spaces of family planning, HIV prevention, and STI prevention. 

In 2009, the IMPT was founded and over the past decade has established itself as a product-neutral convener of the MPT field—functioning as a learning network, an innovative organizational structure well-suited to such an inventive field. In 2019, the IMPT has carried on as the MPT field’s organizer—elevating the important work of product developers, researchers, and advocates. This year we saw unprecedented enthusiasm for IMPT-led projects including a forthcoming publication on non-hormonal contraceptive MPTs, as well as an ongoing project around identifying and characterizing priority sub-national areas in sub-Saharan Africa with a likelihood of successful and impactful uptake of MPTs (more about that here). These are examples of an underlying and founding tenant of the IMPT, putting women at the center by elevating the importance of end-user research before and throughout product development phases—all based on the simple notion that women deserve MPT products they had a say in developing and, in the end, genuinely want to use.

At a decade, the IMPT is now poised to move into its next iteration. Building and growing the MPT field has been the IMPT’s core mission, supported by a small and deeply committed staff and core technical consultants, as well as an ever-growing network of funders, collaborators, and supporters. Up to this point, we have nodded to the number of MPT products in development pipeline as a sign of the field’s success. Moving forward into the IMPT’s next iteration, we will continue to inform strategic actions to advance innovative MPT approaches, including non-hormonal contraceptive MPTs. Recognizing the limited resources for the MPT field and challenges navigating from preclinical to clinical development and eventual product introduction, the IMPT is also working to facilitate the development of robust guidelines to inform difficult go-no-go decisions on which products should continue to move forward to ensure an MPT product pipeline that best serves the needs and the desires of women around the globe.

As we work toward our new and shared vision for the IMPT’s future, recent shifts in funding have necessitated staffing changes. Please be patient with us as we transition.

We look forward to our continued work together in the New Year!