BERKELEY (CBS SF) – A researcher at UC Berkeley whose work could lead to new contraceptives for men and women was among 21 recipients of the prestigious MacArthur genius grant.

Polina Lishko, a physiologist and associate professor of molecular and cell biology, will receive $625,000 in funding over the next five years to continue her work, according to a university statement.

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In her research, Lishko studies sperm and ovarian cells to understand the cellular steps that allow sperm to find and fertilize eggs. She has identified several potential drugs that can interfere with sperm movement and prevent fertilization without the use of hormones, which cause side effects for many women.

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Polina Lishko, 2020 MacArthur Genius Grant recipient. (UC Berkeley)

Polina Lishko, 2020 MacArthur Genius Grant recipient. (UC Berkeley)

“The MacArthur fellowship is a life-changer. Psychologically, it is a huge boost — not only for me, but for the team, as well, because it shows a recognition of the importance of the field of reproductive physiology,” Lishko said.

Lishko’s discoveries have been licensed by a startup she co-founded, YourChoice Theraputics, which hopes to make a non-hormonal contraceptive that women could use during intercourse and possibly a contraceptive that could be used by men.

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Lishko is among three researchers with Bay Area ties to receive this year’s grants. Stanford University announced quantum physicist Monika Schleier-Smith and sociologist Forrest Stuart received the prestigious awards.