Condoms are used by an estimated 750 million people all over the world and unlike other forms of birth control and contraception, they are a way of preventing not only unwanted pregnancy, but also reducing the spread of STI’s and HIV.
Unlike many other technologies though, condoms haven’t really changed much in the last 50 years or so and in a bid to get some improvements made to this popular contraceptive device, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is offering $100,000 of initial funding to whoever can come up with a design for the “next generation of condoms”.
The foundation is also offering further funding of a possible $1million to the successful applicant. Describing the challenge, the Foundation states: “The primary drawback from the male perspective is that condoms decrease pleasure as compared to no condom” and point out that female condoms “suffer from some of the same liabilities as male condoms, require proper insertion training and are substantially more expensive than their male counterparts”.
So they are hoping that someone will either design a male condom that does not reduce pleasure for the wearer, or a female one that it is cheaper and simpler to use.
The Foundation feels that the introduction of a better condom may work to further reduce unwanted pregnancies and the spread of sexually transmitted infections and HIV.
The Foundation wants all applicants to provide a “testable hypothesis” and “include an associated plan for how the idea would be tested or validated and yield interpretable and unambiguous data”.
The successful applicant will also have to have an idea that is inexpensive enough for widespread use, especially in the developing world and they must present a type of condom that will work to prevent pregnancy and the spread of STI’s if they hope to be the one chosen to receive the funding.
The “next-generation” condom challenge falls under the Foundation’s “Grand Challenges Explorations” – which is an ongoing initiative established to provide funding for programs that intend to improve the quality of life for some of the world’s poorest people.
Chris Wilson, Director of Global Health Discovery & Translational Science at the Foundation said:
To overcome persistent health and development problems, we need new, game-changing ideas…Inspiration can come from anywhere and we are hopeful that this new round of Grand Challenges Explorations will uncover innovative approaches to improve lives around the world.
If you’ve got an idea for how to create an improved condom then you can submit it over at GrandChallenges.org.