812 ideas for condom of the future
THE condom of the future might be made of cow tendon or fish skin. It might have "shape memory" to mould instantly to a specific man. Or it might come with pull tabs so a man could slip it on with little fuss.
Those ideas were among the winners announced on Wednesday by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation of a contest to create a condom that men would actually use.
The contest, the foundation said, aimed to decrease unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases with a "next-generation condom that significantly preserves or enhances pleasure".
The foundation received 812 applications, chose 11 winners and awarded them US$100,000 each. The winners could receive up to US$1 million after they develop the ideas.
Gates Foundation official Steven Buchsbaum said the winners ranged from companies long associated with the condom industry to United States chemical engineers and British design consultants, whose previous work included vacuum cleaners.
Many ideas involved materials besides latex, aiming for thinner, stronger, less-constricting condoms with better sensation, "reducing the loving distance between partners, so they will be more close", said Dr Papa Salif Sow, a Gates senior programme officer.
Winning ideas included the "ultrasensitive reconstituted collagen condom" proposed by Apex Medical Technologies in San Diego. Apex's president, Mr Mark McGlothlin, said his product would be made from collagen fibres from cows' Achilles tendons or, possibly, fish skin.
A "wrapping condom" proposal by the California Family Health Council in Los Angeles will build on a version manufactured in Colombia that is made of polyethylene plastic, which "clings like Saran Wrap, rather than squeezes", according to Mr Ron Frezieres, the council's vice-president for research.