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SCIENCE. 1980 Aug 29; 209(4460):992-4.WHO (World Health Organization) has sponsored a multinational cooperative research project in drug chemical synthesis outside the established pharmaceutical company channels. It is a model of particular relevance to developing countries and 1 that could be followed for development of drugs and pesticides. This particular program was launched because the pharmaceutical companies in developed countries were not interested in developing contraceptives that would be applicable for developing areas. The WHO-sponsored program involved synthesis of novel steroid compounds and thorough biological evaluation of the new substances. Approximately 220 steroids were synthesized in 12 laboratories in both developed and developing countries. The administrative and supervisory system of the program is explained. Quality control of the synthesized compounds took place at City University, London, and bioassay at the National Institute of Child health and Human Development in Bethesda, Maryland. The bioassay to determine the duration of long-acting progestogens was the suppression of estrus in rats. The test for androgenic activity was carried out in castrated male rats. Work on potential male contraceptives is being discontinued for financial reasons. However, 6 compounds of possible use in female contraception have been selected for further work.