Bill Gates Condom Challenge could win you $100,000 in grant. Bill Gates is putting out a call to inventors, but he’s not looking for software, or the latest high-tech gadget. This time he’s in search of a better condom. Grand Challenges in Global Health, a research foundation established by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is offering a $100,000 startup grant to the person who designs “the next generation condom that significantly preserves or enhances pleasure” and promotes “regular use.” It may sound like the setup for a joke, but the goal is deadly serious.
Details of the challenge:
Condoms have been in use for about 400 years yet they have undergone very little technological improvement in the past 50 years. The primary improvement has been the use of latex as the primary material and quality control measures which allow for quality testing of each individual condom. Material science and our understanding of neurobiology has undergone revolutionary transformation in the last decade yet that knowledge has not been applied to improve the product attributes of one of the most ubiquitous and potentially underutilized products on earth. New concept designs with new materials can be prototyped and tested quickly. Large-scale human clinical trials are not required. Manufacturing capacity, marketing, and distribution channels are already in place.
We are looking for a Next Generation Condom that significantly preserves or enhances pleasure, in order to improve uptake and regular use. Additional concepts that might increase uptake include attributes that increase ease-of-use for male and female condoms, for example better packaging or designs that are easier to properly apply. In addition, attributes that address and overcome cultural barriers are also desired. Proposals must (i) have a testable hypothesis, (ii) include an associated plan for how the idea would be tested or validated, and (iii) yield interpretable and unambiguous data in Phase I, in order to be considered for Phase II funding.
A few examples of work that would be considered for funding:
– Application of safe new materials that may preserve or enhance sensation;
– Development and testing of new condom shapes/designs that may provide an improved user experience;
– Application of knowledge from other fields (e.g. neurobiology, vascular biology) to new strategies for improving condom desirability.
We will not consider funding for:
– Exclusively non-technological, social, or educational interventions;
– Testing of existing commercially available products;
– Proposals without a clearly articulated hypothesis or plan for testing the proposed product’s value in overcoming adherence issues;
– Concepts that are inherently too expensive for a developing world setting;
– Concepts that would sacrifice the value of condoms for prevention of either unplanned pregnancy or HIV infection.
To apply for the grant, visit www.grandchallenges.org.