The Grand Challenges in Global Health program announced funding for 11 projects that could potentially become the
next iteration of the male condom.
The approved ideas received $100,000 each. If successful,
the teams can receive up to $1 million to continue their research.
"Quite simply, condoms save lives but new thinking
is needed to ensure that men and women around the world are using them
consistently and correctly to prevent unwanted pregnancies and sexually
transmitted infections," the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which is
funding the initiative, said in a press release. "These projects are working to
improve uptake and regular use of male and female condoms by developing new
condoms that significantly preserve or enhance pleasure and by developing
better packaging or designs that are easier to properly use."
Back in March, the Foundation offered
the cash incentive to anyone who could come up with an idea for a better condom. The nonprofit noted that 750 million people currently used condoms, and about 15 billion units are sold each year.
However, because condoms are perceived to take away from the sexual experience,
many people opt
not to use them. In addition, condoms can easily be used incorrectly.
This dangerous behavior not only may increase the spread of
sexually transmitted infections, but can put people at risk of
life-threatening diseases like HIV/AIDS.
"The idea of a condom that men would prefer to no
condom is a revolutionary idea, but we know more today about sexual function
than at any time in the past, and advances in relevant disciplines such as
neuroscience, vascular biology, urology, reproductive biology, materials
science, and other fields can contribute to new and unconventional
approaches," the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation wrote on its blog, Impatient
According to the New York Times, the project received 812 applications, with ideas ranging from how to create thinner,
stronger condoms to prophylactics that could be put on in low light situations.
The 11 funded projects are:
- An enhanced condom using nanomaterials: This
condom is made of elastic composite materials, including a crystallized form of
carbon called graphene. Since graphene is very strong, the condom would be virtually unbreakable.
Also, graphene conducts heat, which might contribute to the sexual experience.
- Dynamic, universal fit, low cost condom: This is a universal size condom that would tighten on the penis during
sex due to the materials used, reducing the chance that semen could seep out while making it more
pleasurable for the wearer.
- Engineering a biologically inspired condom: The polymers
used to make this condom are similar to mucosal tissue and may improve sensation.
- Graphene-based polymer composites for high heat transfer, improved sensitivity and drug delivery: This condom also uses graphene,
but will also include drugs and other compounds that will help prevent sexually
- Project rapidom: This product is a condom
applicator that has an "easy, fail-safe" design. The tool allows the condom user to
put on the prophylactic with one motion, minimizing the time and effort needed
to put on the condom during sex.
- Super-hydrophilic nanoparticle condom coating: This
condom's is made from tiny polymers that allow a thin layer of water to
cover the surface. This potentially could reduce friction and breakage.
- Condom applicator pack (CAP): This is a packaged
condom and applicator duo that would make putting on a condom the wrong way
- Ultra sheer "wrapping" condom with superior strength: This non-toxic, hypoallergenic, plastic-based condom wraps
and clings to the penis instead of working like a sheath. The team is working
with an existing polyethylene condom manufacturer at Columbia University to improve lubrication and
to create two different applicators for the product.
- Ultra-sensitive reconstituted collagen condom: This
condom uses collagen fibers from bovine tendons or fish skin for a more realistic-feeling
prophylactic that does not tear. The creators explained to NPR that when the raw collagen dries, it turns into a product that looks like "sausage casing."
a totally different sensation than a latex condom. It's like
rubbing your hand on a real leather car seat versus one with fake
leather. The fake fabric -- and the latex -- just feels bad," chemical
engineer Mark McGlothlin of Apex Medical Technologies, Inc., told NPR.
- Ultra-sensory condoms based on new superelastomer technology: These condoms are made from very elastic polymers
that are thinner and softer than what is currently on the market.
- Ultrathin adaptable condoms for enhanced sensitivity: These condoms utilize "shape-memory material" that adapts to
certain temperatures. In this case, when the condom senses human body
temperature, it will become thicker and stronger. It will also have antimicrobial
molecules to stop the spread of sexually transmitted infections.