Can researchers make a better condom?

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is offering $100,000 for a next-generation condom that might better control the global spread of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.

By Jonathan Berr Mar 26, 2013 4:32PM
Bill Gates in June 2011 (BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)Can researchers bring the condom, which first appeared on 12,000-year-old cave paintings, into the 21st century?

Bill Gates hopes so. The Microsoft (MSFT) founder-turned-philanthropist is offering a $100,000 prize to whomever can develop the "next-generation condom." The winners may also be able to get an additional $1 million in funding. (Microsoft owns and publishes moneyNOW, an MSN Money site.)  

Exactly what is meant by "next generation" is tough to say. Officials from Reckitt Benckiser (RBGPF), maker of Durex condoms, and Trojan parent Church & Dwight (CHD) couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

Condoms are a wildly successful product. They are cheap and are effective at preventing pregnancies and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. About 15 billion are sold annually. About the only downside to condoms is that many people just don't like them, according to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The main problem with condoms is that they decrease male pleasure -- a trade-off that some men find unacceptable, the foundation says on its website. "Is it possible to develop a product without this stigma, or better, one that is felt to enhance pleasure?"

Gates' foundation aims to find out, and points out that condom design hasn't changed much in the past 50 years. Unfortunately, the potential health consequences of unprotected sex have become much worse in that time frame, particularly with the global AIDS crisis.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV, and about 20% of those are not aware that they are ill. About 50,000 Americans are infected every year with the virus, a rate that the CDC says is "far too high a level." The situation is even more depressing in Africa.

According to amfAR, a foundation for AIDS research, 69% of all people living with HIV are in sub-Saharan Africa, including 91% of the world's HIV-positive children. Many people there don't seek treatment because of high levels of homophobia and social stigmas. Conspiracy theories about the spread of the disease don't help either.

Making condoms better will benefit society as a whole, even those who may be too embarrassed to admit that this is a serious problem. A $100,000 prize could ignite some scientific interest in the issue and just may lead to global change.

--Jonathan Berr does not own shares of the listed stocks.  Follow him on Twitter @jdberr.

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Mar 26, 2013 6:44PM
Thumbs up if you just can't get over "Bill Gates" and "condom" in the same sentence.
Mar 26, 2013 5:31PM
Wrong brand. If you called it "iCondom" and changed the package every couple of weeks they would be in huge demand by the "iCrowd" that will buy anything with an i.
Mar 26, 2013 5:44PM

Just make a pill that gives a man the same libido level as a woman, then you won't need condoms, or BC pills, or diaphragms, or IUD'S, or sex toys, or porn, or etc etc etc.

Mar 27, 2013 6:52AM

Will it tie in to Xbox Live? Some potential achievements to unlock:


"Sad. Just Sad." Carry condom in wallet through expiration date.


"Happens to all guys sometimes." Attempted to put on backwards.


"Sex-ed demonstrator" Applied to a banana.


"Wishful thinking"  Put on a 'magnum' size when micro would suffice.

Mar 26, 2013 7:26PM
where do you go to submit your ideas?
Mar 27, 2013 10:17AM
I wish to apply for the job of product development tester for each of the various upcoming styles, shapes, thicknesses, lubricants, colors, etc. Objectively, the job should include multiple double blind studies with all of the viable ethnic groups identified by researchers, and it would be beneficial to product development engineers to include various body types, sizes, and opening musculature. I'm sure, in the interest of being certain of product security, that these above criteria should be tested in multiple positions as well. When do I start???
Mar 26, 2013 11:31PM

I find some of this, wild and crazy...and just plain funny; Except the disease part...


I thought they made lambskin rubbers 30-40 years ago....??


My real issue with them is in the stopping of the... build-up, to fumble with this thing.


It kind of spoils the intimate moment...just my opinion.


Also I'm sure some lads could use some de-sensitizing...actually it would benefit the young lass's :)



Mar 27, 2013 1:11PM

I say good for their foundation and trying to encourage this. It could do a lot of good and if nothing comes of it well they don't lose anything so from their standpoint win win (even if they did 100k or 1 million is chump change for them). I hope somebody does come up with something that works, it could be a very good thing (bring on the I'll be the tester comments.) 

I also like the approach, one that has been used in other research projects, motivate to win a prize rather than dump money on something and hope it works. Obviously the prize needs to be enough to encourage people, but it gives more to work towards, I think, and creates competition that is good for development, as well as setting clear goals. Something our gov should look at trying more when giving out money.

I think its time

Mar 27, 2013 12:51PM
Goddess forbid that a male not get every ounce of pleasure out of sex. Women don't really care for the feel as much either, but we're smart enough to realize they are safer when you don't want a lifetime STD or unwanted pregnancy.
Mar 27, 2013 11:13AM

I agree... they are crap and the cheap ones they give out ..need to be off the Market....also reservoir

Tips are a joke ...way to small..

Mar 26, 2013 5:57PM
They make a plastic for electric wire that you apply heat it shinks.    They also use plastic to heat up and it protects cars and boats for storage.    That would be great, as friction causes heat between male and female it would seal, Just have to make sure it doesn,t keep shinking our it could be a hole lot painful for the guy but it would seal the problem.
Mar 27, 2013 1:43PM
They already make a better condom. You get maried and problem is solved- you no longer need a condon becuase you no longer have sex.
Mar 27, 2013 2:29PM

"the main problem with condoms is that they decrease male pleasure"-- make that "the main problem men have with condoms is that they decrease male pleasure." I'm a women who, like many women, find that they decrease MY pleasure as well. There's plenty of information on the web about this; for example:




Mar 28, 2013 7:59PM

A new condom design? It's about time.

I think the 13th century is when the first condom design was thought up. The Muslims used the lower intestine of a goat.

In the 1800s, the British improved on the design by removing the intestine from the goat.
Mar 27, 2013 11:16AM
CONDOMS....the next generation, staring Richard Peter.......But really the best condoms for men are the very thin ones but then they have the increased risk of breakage, I'm thinking new synthetic compound that is very thin but will resist tearing like the thicker ones.
Mar 27, 2013 10:24AM
I already developed it, give me the 100 grand, here it is: dont' have sex if you're not ready to take on the consequences.
May 4, 2013 2:52PM
My idea is to give the New Generation Condom a good naming convention. The new condom should be named the "Microsoft Condom Version 1".

The latex of the condom should have touch screen capability with high definition graphics. A modified microscopic microchip could be embedded within the latex. The condom would be installed with the latest version of Windows 8. The new condom would have the capability to display porn from MSN network.

My theory is that the correct application of cutting edge technology would ease the boredom caused by using conventional condoms.
Mar 29, 2013 12:12PM
Okay, so lets create a condom that instantly ruins "the mood" and eliminates the necessity for it in the first place.
Mar 26, 2013 5:42PM
What is wrong with you people? Even if they targeted the young there are parents responsible for their own children and the word NO has left the parental vocabulary these days. 
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