How the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation took action

How the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation took action

One of the most common reasons for guys to waiver when it comes to wearing a condom is how it makes them feel.  Reduction in pleasure is a justifiable complaint but not when it is weighed against the avoidance of an STI or life-changing conditions like HIV Aids.

In 2013, Bill and Melinda Gates of the famous Gates Foundation wanted to see what was out there in terms of innovation and were really keen to develop an overnight sensation, with the emphasis on the sensational.  Here are some of the ideas that they picked to progress to the next stage of their condoms concept initiative for further development:-

  • An entry from the Cambridge Design Partnership in the UK is a condom that gently tightens during intercourse to increase sensation without being too difficult to fit at the outset. Their submission is a product with multiple polymers which is what facilitates this slow tightening effect.  The CDP is also aiming that this condom is not only a universal fit but low cost
  • Lakshminarayanan Ragupathy from HLL Lifecare, an Indian company, has focused on increasing the heat transfer which is known to make intercourse more pleasurable and also thinning the barrier to focus on sensation. This has been achieved by using Graphene which is described as stronger than steel but thinner than paper.  This entry also wins the award for the entrant with the longest name
  • Shaped by the memory, the University of Oregon unveiled its submission, “Ultrathin Adaptable condoms for Enhanced Sensitivity”. Their condom uses elastomeric materials that change shape when exposed to body temperature for the ultimate in sensitivity
  • The “wrapping condom” is brought to the table by the California Family Health Council and has nothing to do with beat music. It is made from non-toxic polythene which clings rather than grips thereby offering safety and security but not at the expense of sensation.  It is also easier to put on
  • Boston University is running with a condom with a nanoparticle coating which is designed to reduce friction and better prevent against breakages. This works ostensibly by trapping a thin film of water
  • Superelastomer is the material of choice from Jimmy Mays at the University of Tennessee, an innovative type of rubber that can be manipulated until it is thinner than standard alternatives without losing any strength
  • Rather controversially, Apex Medical Technologies in San Diego has produced a condom made from collagen fibrils harvested from bovine tendons. The appeal is their similarity to the human skin surface (sort of) and they are a material which permits the transfer of heat.  But what about the vegetarians and vegans?
  • Project Rapidom is on a different track as they wanted to make the application of condoms easier. The company behind this idea is Kimbranox, a South African company and they were majoring on the other aspect of the Gates Foundation condom concept initiative which was the easier application of a condom, another common reason not to bother putting one on. With Rapidom, you can open the wrapper and apply the condom all in one motion

The Gates Foundation is not just focusing on condoms, there is a much bigger, international picture.  The GCE – Grand Challenges Explorations – fund imaginative and innovative ideas which challenge persistent global health problems from the third to the first world.  The broader landscape surrounding condoms also includes other tools to prevent STIs and HIV Aids including new gel microbicides, cervical caps and long-acting antiretrovirals.  The idea is to provide a suite of choice for both men and women when it comes to protecting themselves against sexually transmitted diseases.

Initial funding in the condom concepts initiative was $100,000 with highlighted projects asked to participate in the next level putting themselves in line for a potential grant of $1 million.  As well as social conscience there is no doubt that an easier to fit condom which proves indestructible as well as enhancing sensation would be hugely commercially viable.  So, it remains to be seen what comes to market and how accessible it is for the world’s poorest people in the developing nations, firmly in the sights of Bill and Melinda Gates according to their Foundation.

Stuart Brown

Stuart Brown

I'm Stuart, senior Editor at British Condoms. I am an expert in all areas of sexual health and have a passion to drive knowledge to youth in the UK. Any questions for me or media enquiries, please feel free to tweet me @britishcondoms. Always open to engagement.

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