The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was founded in 1997 to provide grants to individuals and organizations that help make the world a healthier place. Its mission is to reduce extreme poverty, improve healthcare, expand access to information technology and broaden opportunities for education. Each year, the foundation runs contests, or “challenges,” for endeavors pursuant to its mission, and as part of its Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) initiative. This year, one GCE contest involved developing a new type of male contraception.
The main push behind the male contraception advancements contest stems from condom benefits and the reluctance of some men to not wear them. While condoms are not 100 percent foolproof, when used correctly, they can help reduce the risk of sexually transmitted diseases, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which is a governmental agency set up to protect and promote health. In addition, condoms help to prevent unintended pregnancies.
Unfortunately, some men are hesitant to wear them. Despite public health advocacy to wear condoms and the still prevalent HIV/AIDS problem, only about five percent of men worldwide do so, according to the New York Times.
These reasons are what led to the implementation of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation next-generation condom challenge to generate ideas of a new type of condom that men would be excited to wear. The foundation received more than 800 ideas and awarded $100,000 to the chosen 11.
According to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation press release, the winners in the GCE initiative were selected for their global health and development initiatives. They span a variety of topics, including new approaches to control, detect, and treat neglected tropical diseases, bringing together human and veterinary health for new solutions, and ideas for the development of advanced types of condoms for the protection of sexually-transmitted diseases and to prevent unwanted pregnancy. In each category, including the “Develop the Next Generation of Condom” category, the winner receives a $100,000 grant from the foundation.
Winners of the CGE initiative grants sent in proposals from 14 countries around the world and winners included health researchers, entrepreneurs, engineers, and design professionals. A total of 81 projects received the grant. Some of the other categories that won the grant this year include interventions for neglected diseases, using social data for social good, and helping women farmers in the developing world.
The New York Times reports that the winner of this year’s condom contest intends to create a form of contraception men will enjoy using. The next generation condom is geared to enhance the pleasure of the wearer, making men more inclined to use it and protect both partners from sexually transmitted diseases, including the potentially fatal AIDS.
Not only does the winner receive $100,000, but the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation may also provide them with an additional $1 million to develop the next generation condom idea. There were multiple winners for the condom advancements category, including British design consultants and chemical engineers from the U.S. and India.
Proposals sent for the newest generation of condoms ranged from using materials that are stronger and less constricting than latex, while others proposed more sensation between partners. One proposal even suggested using fish skin or collagen fibers from the Achilles tendons of cows. Two of the winners work with polyurethane, suggesting a one-size-fits-all condom.
Regardless of what future developments are coming, these winners will be working diligently to create the next best male contraception.
Source: Belluk, Pam. "Condom Contest Produces 812 Ideas for Improvement." The New York Times. 20 Nov 2013. Web. Retrieved 24 Nov 2013.