Cirqle Biomedical
Index Award 2021 Finalists
OUI
The hormone-free contraceptive

What’s the design in a nutshell?
OUI is a small gel capsule working as a female contraceptive by creating an impenetrable cervical mucus in the vagina. It’s proving to be a breakthrough reinvention of birth control as we know it and can better women’s health globally.

Why is it needed?
The hormonal pill was introduced about 60 years ago, and since then, has become an industry standard for female contraception. Unfortunately, its systemic hormonal approach has burdened many with side effects and compromised efficiency. In Denmark alone, studies have shown that hormonal contraceptives heighten the risk of depression by 80%. Even non-hormonal alternatives come with inconveniences: 63% of American women utilising options like copper IUD’s experience massive menstrual cramps three to six months after insertion. Around the five-year mark, 44% discontinue using it.

Both physical and mental side effects of contraceptives have left many women unwilling to put themselves on these treatments. But with 922 million women worldwide still utilising contraceptives and 1.1 billion women in need of family planning, the Danish company Cirqle Biomedical answered the call for a new solution.

In fact, Co-Founder and CEO Frederik Petursson Madsen got the idea for OUI while speaking to his girlfriend. When she told him she wanted to stop using the pill because of the side effects, he realised that he hadn’t been aware of them until then. However, the more he discussed the issue with his girlfriend and her friends, the more he realised the magnitude of the problem.

"OUI is able to reach 99% efficiency one minute after insertion, lasting up to five hours."

How does it work?
In many ways, OUI is building upon our bodies’ natural pregnancy prevention. Inspired by pioneering mucus engineering research at MIT and The Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden, OUI is leveraging nature’s sperm barrier. During menstrual cycles, cervical mucus naturally becomes impenetrable for sperm and more watery at the time of ovulation, thereby allowing sperm cells to pass. The OUI gel, consisting mostly of water and chitosan biopolymers, reverts the cervical mucus back to the impenetrable state.

Without any use of hormones and instead of these biodegradable, non-toxic biopolymers, OUI can reach 99% efficiency one minute after insertion, lasting up to five hours.

How does it improve life?
By proposing this non-hormonal and natural alternative, OUI improves life for women who want the freedom and choice of effective pregnancy prevention without compromising their health and well-being. That mission has inspired Madsen and the Cirqle Biomedical team to become the next-generation contraceptive that will replace hormonal birth control as the go-to for women.

What’s the impact to date or projected impact?
OUI is still a beta product being tested in labs. But so far, they’ve demonstrated 100% efficiency in animal testing, which is superior to other contraceptive methods on the market and has confirmed the novel mechanism of action. In addition, the team is working hard to ensure the side effects of OUI are as minimal as possible and certainly fewer and milder than any product ever available before.