By Alexandra Burlacu | Mar 24, 2013 11:04 AM EDT
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation wants to grant $1 million for designing the "next generation of condoms," with an initial funding of $100,000.
An estimated 750 million people across the world use condoms to reduce both unwanted pregnancies and the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs). Unlike most technologies, however, condoms did not see much of a change in the last five decades or so, but that's about to change.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is now offering $100,000 of initial funding with up to $1 million of additional funding to whomever manages to design the condom of tomorrow.
"The one major drawback to more universal use of male condoms is the lack of perceived incentive for consistent use," reads the Foundation's description of the challenge. "The primary drawback from the male perspective is that condoms decrease pleasure as compared to no condom, creating a trade-off that many men find unacceptable, particularly given the decisions about use much be made just prior to intercourse."
"Is it possible to develop a product without this stigma, or better, one that is felt to enhance pleasure? If so, would such a product lead to substantial benefits for global health, both in terms of reducing the incidence of unplanned pregnancies and in prevention of infection with HIV or other STIs?"
The grant challenge also seeks ideas that could increase the ease of use for both male and female condoms. Such ideas could focus on better packaging or designs that are easier to apply properly, but could go much farther. The request also seeks "attributes that address and overcome cultural barriers."
According to the Foundation's Web page for grant challenges, the next-generation condom must be inexpensive to produce, and prove highly efficient in preventing pregnancy and HIV infection. The group even invites professionals in the fields of neurobiology, vascular biology, material science and other areas of expertise to give the challenge a shot.
Proposals for the next-generation condom must have a "testable hypothesis, include an associated plan for how the idea would be tested or validated and yield interpretable and unambiguous data" to benefit from the continued funding.
Interested parties can submit their proposals to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's related Grand Challenges website by 11:30 a.m. PT on May 7.
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