Would you use a condom made from beef tendons? Bill and Melinda Gates think you might. The foundation has selected it as one of the 11 winning designs in the first round of the Gates Foundation’s quest to develop a condom that will preserve -- or even enhance -- sexual pleasure.
Announced in March, the “Next Generation Condom” challenge sought out designs for condoms that were easier to apply, maintained pleasure or made for female use in hopes that more people would use them, curbing the spread of HIV and other diseases.
“The undeniable, and unsurprising, truth is that most men prefer sex without a condom, while the risks related to HIV infection and complications of unplanned pregnancy are disproportionately borne by their partners,” the foundation wrote when it announced the competition.
The 11 teams chosen will each receive $100,000 in funding from the Gates Foundation and 12 to 18 months to spend developing its design. After further consideration, the foundation will award the most market-promising condoms up to $1 million.
The condom made with collagen from beef tendon by San Diego’s Apex Medical Technologies sought to emulate human skin as closely as possible.
“A lot people are trying to get stronger and thinner material -- that was always my focus,” team member Mark McGlothlin said. “But the texture of collagen is very much like the mucous membrane: The feel of it, the heat transfer of it, and to the touch, it feels very much like skin.”
Another awardee is imitating human skin with thermoplastic elastomers, a plastic he’s been researching for the past 25 years. The material can flex for a longer period than latex and return to its beginning dimensions, the New Republic reports.
“You won’t even know it’s there,” creator Jimmy Mays of the University of Tennessee said. “I’m not a condom guy—I’m a polymer chemist, and our material was tailor made for this purpose.”
Other designs include condoms that can be unwrapped and applied in one swift motion, that wrap on, that tighten during intercourse and that cling rather than squeeze.
The foundation is holding a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” regarding questions about reinventing the condom.
Check out some of the designs below:
Using Nanomaterials to Increase Sensation
Aravind Vijayaraghavan and his team from the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom are creating new elastomeric composite materials for condoms to enhance the natural sensation during intercourse.
A Condom That Gently Tightens
Benjamin Strutt and a team from Cambridge Design Partnership in the United Kingdom will design a male condom out of a composite material that will provide universal fit and is designed to gently tighten during intercourse, enhancing sensation and reliability and ultimately increasing adoption.
Jimmy Mays of the University of Tennessee in the U.S. is developing and testing a condom made with a highly elastic polymer, which allows it to be thinner, softer, and less expensive.
Ultrasheer "Wrapping Condom" With Superior Strength
Ron Frezieres of the California Family Health Council will develop a stronger and thinner male condom made of polyethylene.
Easy Application Condom
Willem van Rensburg of Kimbranox Ltd. in South Africa will test a condom applicator, the Rapidom, which is designed for easy, technique-free application of male condoms. Kimbranox will test an applicator designed to be applied with one motion, thereby minimizing interruption.
A Collagen Condom
Mark McGlothlin of Apex Medical Technologies, Inc. in the U.S. is developing a male condom using collagen fibrils that provide a hydrated micro-rough skin-like surface texture to facilitate heat transfer and produce a more natural sensation.