Research Priorities

Research Priorities

The ASRM Research Institute will focus its support on those research areas that would have an impact on the practice of reproductive medicine with priority on initiatives:

  • not fundable by current NIH or other federal or state guidelines
  • answering timely, basic or clinically relevant questions
  • addressing other ASRM strategic initiatives important to the field and to the membership
The two overarching themes that encompass this priority are: 1.The effects of the genome, epigenome and the environment on fertility, human development and reproductive health and 2. Access to reproductive care. These themes fall under the following general areas of research:

  • Genetic and epigenetic pre-pregnancy and peri-conceptional considerations involving
    • human gametes
    • human embryos
    • uterus
  • Basic and clinical considerations relevant to the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD)
  • The environment (in vivo and in vitro) and its effects on reproduction and reproductive health
  • Access to reproductive care

Priority will be given to the research categories below (click to expand):

A priority of the ASRM Research Institute will be to support APPLIED CLINICAL RESEARCH, including:

General:


  • How to apply precision medicine in clinical reproductive care
  • Study the origin of aneuploidy / meiotic vs. mitotic errors
  • Human embryo culture optimization and effects of human embryo manipulation(s) in vitro
  • “Beyond the Semen Analysis” – Develop additional diagnostics for male factor infertility
  • Single cell analytics of gametes for clinical (and research) application(s)
  • Study and define the poor-quality oocyte for application to clinical medicine
  • Studies on the derivation of human stem cell lineages in females and males
    • In vitro gametogenesis
    • Testicular biopsy of child to identify stem cells for sperm maturation
    • Clinical testing of gametes generated in the laboratory

Access to Care:


  • Low cost IVF
    • Vaginal culture
    • IVM for routine IVF (in non PCOS patients)
  • Fertility preservation (male, female, children)
    • Optimization of gamete and reproductive tissue cryopreservation
  • Socio-cultural barriers (geographic, religious, financial, educational, time away from work, etc.)
  • Practical IVF (e.g., cost saving studies vs. applications like telemedicine)

Outcomes:

  • Short and Long-term outcomes of fertility treatments (parents AND offspring)
    • Development of an expanded SART CORS database (and, potentially, with linkage to other databases)
    • Development of iPad/iPhone-type app for direct data input by patient

Other areas of possible interest and importance to the field:

  • The microbiome
  • Integration of various “-omics” findings
  • Validation of emerging biomarkers for diagnosis of reproduction-related disease(s)
  • Gene editing of germline/embryos
It is stressed that the Institute processes should be nimble enough to be in position of quickly addressing unexpected clinical needs which lead to new opportunities for research (e.g., as happened for Zika).

Note: There are other general and common areas of reproductive research for which current funding already exists, albeit at relatively decreased or low levels. These topics do not meet the criteria listed above for priority areas to fund at the present time. However, the consensus of both the Research Task Force and the Steering Committee was to keep these topics on the list for annual review and consideration. These topics’ prioritization may be changed based on a shifting research climate and potential new discoveries. These topics include:

  • Endometriosis/Adenomyosis
  • Fibroids
  • PCOS
  • The human placenta (as described in the NICHD Human Placenta Project)

A priority of the ASRM Research Institute will be to SUPPORT THE CURRENT AND NEXT GENERATION OF RESEARCHERS.

ASRM has previously supported current researchers primarily through its investigator-initiated grants at approximately $30,000 to $50,000 per grant for a total of $200,000 annually. The current NIH funding climate has reduced funding sufficiently to cause a rapid attrition of scientists able and willing to survive these difficult funding times. This is particularly true for scientists in the reproductive sciences. RFA-based research funding will be the foundation of the ASRM Research Institute funding and be determined annually by the areas of research that are prioritized. Bridging grants, a major focus on mid-level career research support and the support of new areas of research for seasoned researchers will be continued, the dollar amount and number being determined annually. Consideration will be given for an annual competitive distribution of both small grants of approximately $50K and of several multi-year $100K- 250K grants.

The health of clinical programs in reproductive medicine and survival of research in the reproductive sciences depend on the next generation of reproductive scientists, both basic and clinical. A major role of the ASRM Research Institute will be to assure the survival of reproductive research by infusing and supporting a pipeline of young investigators. ASRM has had a long tradition of collaboration with NICHD in supporting the CREST and RSDP scholars’ programs. In addition, ASRM has been supporting programs involved in the training of M.D. and Ph.D. fellows such as the Frontiers in Reproduction course, the Gordon Conferences, and the NIH annual conference for fellows going back to the inception of these programs many years ago. Support of the next generation of researchers will continue to be through the traditional scholar’s programs such as RSDP and CREST. In addition, strong consideration is being given to developing a new mentored research support mechanism by supporting “ASRM Research Scholar(s)” for a duration of three to five years, similar to federal individual K-type mentored awards. These could be funded entirely through the ASRM Research Institute or in collaboration with other organizations.



A priority of the ASRM Research Institute will be COLLABORATIVE RESEARCH INITIATIVES.

The current ASRM Strategic Plan calls for “partnership(s) with federal agencies and global organizations to promote, support, and advance research and training in reproductive science and medicine.”

There are times when reproductive research would benefit by such collaborative efforts. For example, the NICHD-funded Reproductive Medicine Network may be able to perform a large RCT that answers a critical question, but can only be undertaken with additional resources provided by the ASRM Research Institute to cover expenses precluded from federal funding. As such, the ASRM Research Institute is interested in participating in such collaborations that will move forward the Reproductive Research agenda and impact care. It is envisioned that cooperative agreements involving the ASRM Institute and NIH-funded investigators with common research goals can be established to complement what the federal grants cannot fund due to existing restrictions (such as fertilization of human eggs or embryo biopsy).

Such collaborative efforts could markedly enhance the impact and hasten clinical application of observations based on federally funded research projects. Such investigations could follow mechanistic studies in laboratory animals or validate basic research on human gamete development by facilitating the performance of fertilization and embryo transfer studies or by complementing observational data involving the manipulation and transfer of human embryos.



A priority of the ASRM Research Institute will be to support BASIC RESEARCH, including:

  • Human gamete and embryo research
    • Genetic/ epigenetic programming/re-programing and embryo development
    • Human sperm and egg contribution to embryo development
    • Definition of quality of male and female gametes
    • Definition of quality of embryos
  • Molecular mechanisms of human implantation and placentation
  • Molecular mechanisms involved in female and male reproductive aging
  • Role(s) of mitochondria in human gametes, embryos and early development
  • Gene-environment interactions
  • Investigations into the derivation and differentiation of stem cells
  • Consideration should be given in establishing the Human Trophectoderm Project in order to define better, at the basic level, the development of human polar and mural trophoblasts and how this may affect the invasive and non-invasive evaluation of human embryos for clinical purposes