Design a better condom, win $100,000

The Gates Foundation is awarding grants for the next generation of condoms that preserve (or enhance) pleasure so more people will use them.

For something that saves millions of lives, the condom is cheap, portable, easy-to-use, available globally, and effective when used properly. There are no adverse events associated with their use – which can’t be said of any other contraceptive or STI-preventive product – and yet they don’t require a prescription, a skilled health provider, or any healthcare delivery system.

But if no one wants to use it, none of that matters. So, is it possible to develop a product that doesn’t decrease pleasure… or better, one that enhances it?

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has a proposition: develop the next generation of condom and be awarded a $100,000 grant through the Explorations program of the Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative:

We are looking for a Next Generation Condom that significantly preserves or enhances pleasure, in order to improve uptake and regular use. Additional concepts that might increase uptake include attributes that increase ease-of-use for male and female condoms, for example better packaging or designs that are easier to properly apply. In addition, attributes that address and overcome cultural barriers are also desired.

More specifics available here. Consider new shapes and applying knowledge from neurobiology or vascular biology!

New concept designs and materials can be prototyped and tested quickly; large-scale human clinical trials aren’t required. And manufacturing capacity, marketing, and distribution channels are already in place.

The current rate of global production is 15 billion condoms a year. Although they’ve been used for four centuries, there’ve been very little improvement in the past 50 years. (As far as condom technology goes, the last major innovation was latex.) No attempts to modernize have gone into wide production.

(Trivia: that little box that Jude Law’s character takes out in Anna Karenina contains a reusable condom.)

[Via PopSci]

Image by trec_lit via Flickr

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