At last, an orally active gonadotropin-releasing hormone antagonist

At last, an orally active gonadotropin-releasing hormone antagonist

Volume 111, Issue 1, Pages 30–31


Richard J. Paulson, M.D., M.S.


In July 2018 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved, for the first time, an orally active gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) antagonist. My first thought was, I only wish that Gary Hodgen had lived long enough to see this day. I remember listening to his wonderfully prescient lectures on GnRH and its analogs in the early 1990s, dreaming of all that was going to be possible when the GnRH antagonists finally became a reality (1). Gary was a brilliant researcher and spent many years performing pioneering studies on prototypes of GnRH antagonists, which promised to transform reproductive medicine.

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Go to the profile of Sergio C Oehninger
over 3 years ago

We thank Dr. Paulson for his comment on the newly developed oral GnRH antagonists and their promising future in clinical reproductive medicine and want to echo his insightful recognition of Gary D. Hodgen.


Gary D. Hodgen, PhD, was engaged in research in the science of reproduction and the discipline of reproductive medicine for over four decades. He turned his focus to the study of ovarian physiology and the process of ovulation using the non-human primate monkey model and as a result redefined the physiology of the normal ovarian-menstrual cycle and the effects of controlled ovarian hyperstimulation. In 1985 Dr. Hodgen relocated from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), where he was Chief of the Pregnancy Research Branch in Bethesda, to Norfolk, Virginia, to become Scientific Director of the Jones Institute for Reproductive Medicine.  With a clinical program well underway, the addition of a renowned and energetic physiologist created an incredible momentum with participation of scientists from all over the world.


In 1986 Dr. Hodgen became the founding principal investigator of the Contraceptive Research and Development (CONRAD) Program, funded by the United States Agency for International Development. In 1986 this 5-year, $35 million program was the largest biomedical research award ever granted by a federal agency.  In 1990 he was instrumental in establishing the Howard and Georgeanna Jones Institute for Reproductive Medicine Foundation and became its President.  To quote him: “Infertility and contraceptive research are nothing but two sides of the same coin”.  Altogether, Dr. Hodgen was the principal investigator on $258 million worth of sponsored research, and his inventions provided $34 million of patent licensing income.


Dr. Hodgen’s productivity was immense: he advanced our understanding of folliculogenesis, contraception, preimplantation genetic diagnosis, and therefore participated in the progress of the emerging assisted reproductive technologies, while at the same time mentoring a generation of clinical and basic investigators. Gary started working with GnRH analogs in the early 1980’s and his first published article exploring their potential clinical applications was with Dr. D. Kenigsberg in 1983. Those early studies evolved over the years into a full-blown program of exploration in partnerships with various pharmaceutical companies testing multiple GnRH analogs (both agonists and antagonists) for efficacy in a variety of hormone dependent conditions. This pre-clinical proof-of-concept work then expanded into pre-clinical modelling with antiprogestins (which later became known as SPRMs), SERMS and a whole range of other pharmacologic agents.


Serious and professional in his daily enterprises, Gary as he liked to be called was an imposing but fun person. He was also a motivated fisherman and a good golfer. We were privileged to work with him as research/clinical fellows, and then as Faculty at the Jones Institute, and we were fortunate to spend some enjoyable times with him in leisure activities, either deep sea fishing, or golfing.


The field of Reproduction and Infertility patients owe him a great deal.


Authors: Sergio Oehninger, MD, PhD,  Sher Fertility Institute, New York, Associate Medical Director,  email:;  and  Keith Gordon, PhD,  Senior scientific director, Elagolix-Abbvie, email: