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: