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New Condom Design Funded By Gates Foundation
November 21, 2013
Condoms work... If you can get them out of the wrapper and negotiated into the right spot at the right time. They are cheap, effective protection against sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy and they don't need a prescription. In fact, you can often obtain them totally free from doctors offices and well, in high school bathrooms. Unless you have a condom allergy or allergy to the lubricant, there are rarely any adverse effects; except of course loss of pleasure, which is why Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation issued a worldwide call for new condom concepts. They were sent more than 500 applications which ranged in design from a slingshot applicator to high tech science.
Eleven ideas were chosen to go forward to Phase 1 of the process. Each of the ideas will receive $100,000 to develop their concept over the next 12 to 18 months. An additional award of up to 1 million will be made to projects that looks like they make it to the market. Specifically, the Gates Foundation is looking for a solution to increase pleasure and to make application easier.
An Easier Applicator
Project Rapidom, developed by Kimbranox, a company in South Africa, this applicator lets men (or women) put on the rubber in one motion, opening the wrapper and applying the condom with minimal fuss.
By incorporating graphene, a new super-strong, conductive material, a scientist from HLL Lifecare, in India, hopes to do both, creating a thinner, warmer product. This would thin the barrier between partners.
Shape Memory Material
The concept calls for elastomeric (elastic) materials that shape-shift when exposed to body temperature "thereby improving tactility and enhancing sensitivity." A team from University of Oregon promises "Ultrathin Adaptable Condoms for Enhanced Sensitivity."
A Condom That Gently Tightens
The Cambridge Design Partnership, in the U.K., plans to develop the "Dynamic, Universal Fit, Low Cost Condom." The application states the condom will be made from multiple polymers with a specific geometry that cause the condom to gently tighten during intercourse. Intriguing, but if the condom is shrinking wouldn't be less pleasurable for the woman?
Slightly different from the condom that tightens, a non-toxic polyethylene material clings to surfaces rather than squeezes thereby enhancing sensation and enabling easier application. Developed by California Family Health Council to get as thin as possible, while maintaining strength.
Nanoparticle Condom Coating
Many of the condoms aim to reduce unnecessary friction, on both sides. Boston University's submission has a "super-hydrophilic nanoparticle coating to better protect against breakage" and "traps a thin film of water to reduce friction and shearing forces."
It's Made With Superlastomere
University of Tennessee developers are planning to make condoms using Superelastomer, a new type of rubber that can be stretched thinner than conventional materials and still maintain strength. It's "injection moldable," meaning the design should be cheap to produce.
Collagen Fibrils From Bovines
The vegetarians can skip this one... Apex Medical Technologies, in San Diego, conceives a condom made from "collagen fibrils from bovine tendons, which are widely available from meat processing." Says the submission: "collagen fibrils would provide a hydrated micro-rough skin-like surface texture that facilitates heat transfer, to produce a more natural sensation." The texture of collagen is very much like the mucous membrane, bio-safe, micro-thin cow leather. It's also a raw material available across the world, which makes it easily renewable.
There has been a second call for initial concepts, and although these may have a jump start on production, the winning submission could be in the next round of applications. The Gates Foundation is not only investing in condom design, it also has resources set aside for gel microbicides, cervical caps, and long-acting antiretrovirals. The Foundation hopes to offer male and female options for HIV prevention.