March 24, 2013
Bill Gates Wants Your Condom, But It’s Not What You Might Think
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
When you think about contraceptives, it´s highly doubtful Bill Gates is the first name that comes to mind, but the Microsoft co-founder and chairman is looking to use his charitable organization in order to change that — and quite likely save some lives in the process.
The money, which is being awarded through the Grand Challenges in Global Health Program, will go to the student, scientist, or entrepreneur who can come up with a male contraceptive that is less of a burden to wear, increasing the likelihood that men will actually use them during sex.
“There have been attempts to modernize the condom, but none have gone into wide production. And that means our best tool to fight the spread of sexually-transmitted disease is basically the finger of a rubber glove,” explained Dan Nosowitz of Australian Popular Science.
“As a product, the condom is almost exclusively great,” he added. “Cheap, easily transported, sturdy, effective when used properly, widely available, easy to use, intuitive, requiring no particular medical knowledge or even advice, which can save literally millions of lives. But if nobody wants to use them, none of that matters.”
That is the issue the Gates Foundation is attempting to solve with their challenge to develop the next generation of condom. They want some inspired mind to think of a way to take what is a contraceptive that is approximately 400 years old and has not been noticeably enhanced in the past five decades, and devise a way to turn it into something men will be willing to use, without fail, when engaging in intercourse
“The primary improvement has been the use of latex as the primary material and quality control measures which allow for quality testing of each individual condom,” the Foundation said. “Material science and our understanding of neurobiology has undergone revolutionary transformation in the last decade yet that knowledge has not been applied to improve the product attributes of one of the most ubiquitous and potentially underutilized products on earth.”
There are some guidelines, of course. All submissions are required to have a hypothesis that can be tested, as well as a plan for how the idea could be verified or validated. The Foundation also provides some examples of innovations that would be accepted (the use of safe new materials that preserve or enhance sensation; the development and testing of new shapes and designs that provide a better user experience; the application of knowledge from fields like neurobiology and vascular biology for improved condom desirability) — as well as a few that will result in automatic rejection (testing of existing products; concepts that are too expensive; ideas that would sacrifice the usefulness of the condom as either a birth control or anti-HIV infection instrument).
The condom challenge comes as part of Grand Challenges Explorations Round 11, and proposals will be accepted online at www.grandchallenges.org through May 7, the Gates Foundation said. Officials from the organization and an independent team of reviewers will select the proposals deemed the most innovative, and grants will be awarded approximately four months following the deadline. Initial grants are $100,000, but the best projects will have a chance to earn up to $1 million in funding from the foundation.