Photograph by Jeff Minton/Gallery Stock

Innovation: Next-Gen Condoms

  1. Gates Foundation Grants
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    Gates Foundation Grants

    The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation challenged scientists earlier this year to build a safer condom that would be more pleasurable to wear and encourage more consistent use to prevent HIV infections and unplanned pregnancies. Last month the philanthropy gave $100,000 grants to 11 of the more than 800 applicants. Successful projects will be eligible for additional funding of as much as $1 million.

    Photograph by Jeff Minton/Gallery Stock
  2. Graphene
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    Graphene

    Innovator Lakshminarayanan Ragupathy
    Title Scientist at HLL Lifecare, a government-owned health-care business in Kerala, India

    What’s new Graphene
    This much-heralded substance, a form of carbon, is the strongest, thinnest material ever produced. It also conducts heat, enhancing sensitivity, Ragupathy says.

    Illustration by 731
  3. Removable Tabs
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    Removable Tabs

    Innovator Ron Frezieres
    Title Vice president for research and evaluation at the nonprofit California Family Health Council in Los Angeles

    What’s new Removable tabs
    Removable tabs can help slide this clingy polyethylene condom on “like a sock,” says Frezieres, who is working with a manufacturer in Bogotá.

    Illustration by 731
  4. Collagen
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    Collagen

    Innovator Mark McGlothlin
    Title President and chief executive officer of Apex Medical Technologies in San Diego

    What’s new Collagen
    Fibers from bovine tendon make the condom feel more like human skin for both partners. “It doesn’t feel like rubber or plastic,” McGlothlin says.

    Illustration by 731
  5. Form Fit
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    Form Fit

    Innovator Ben Strutt
    Title Head of design at Cambridge Design Partnership in the U.K.

    What’s new Form fit
    To develop a “genuine, one-size-fits-all” product, Strutt’s team will test polymers designed to exert less initial pressure on the wearer and gently tighten during sex.

    Illustration by 731
  6. Extreme Elastics
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    Extreme Elastics

    Innovator Jimmy Mays
    Title Chemistry professor at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville

    What’s new Extreme elastics
    New materials called superelastomers “can stretch more than any rubbery material that’s ever been used as a condom” and recover their initial shape, Mays says. He plans to share samples with a German manufacturer.

    Illustration by 731
  7. Water Wall
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    Water Wall

    Innovators Karen Buch and Ducksoo Kim
    Titles Radiology resident at Boston Medical Center; professor of radiology at Boston University School of Medicine

    What’s new Water wall
    A special coating, inspired by catheter technology, reduces friction to limit discomfort and breakage. Protective drugs can also be bound into the “water wall,” Buch says.

    Illustration by 731