Washington: Billionaire philanthropist and Microsoft founder Bill Gates has set his sights and his vast wealth on a new way to improve the world - offering up to $1 million to anyone who can invent a "better" condom.
"We are looking for a `Next Generation Condom` that significantly preserves or enhances pleasure, in order to improve uptake and regular use," the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said on its "Grand Challenges in Global Health" website.
Gates is offering $100,000 in start-up funds and up to $1 million in additional money if the project is deemed promising.
"The primary drawback from the male perspective is that condoms decrease pleasure as compared to no condom, creating a trade-off that many men find unacceptable, particularly given that the decisions about use must be made just prior to intercourse," the statement added.
The foundation estimates that 15 billion condoms are manufactured each year throughout the world, with 750 million users.
But it says that while condoms have been around for some 400 years, "they have undergone very little technological improvement in the last 50 years".
"Is it possible to develop a product without this stigma, or better, one that is felt to enhance pleasure? If so, would such a product lead to substantial benefits for global health, both in terms of reducing the incidence of unplanned pregnancies and in prevention of infection with HIV or other STIs (sexually transmitted infections)?"
The foundation said it is also looking for additional concepts and designs that make male and female condoms easier to use, as well as ideas for better packaging.
It also said it will consider applications for new materials, new shapes or designs, or scientific ways to make condoms more desirable to use.
This is the 11th round of the foundation`s Grand Challenges Explorations project, which is aimed at improving the lives of the world`s poorest people.
Since launching Grand Challenges in 2008, the foundation says it has funded more than 800 grants in 52 countries and paid out $450 million for projects such as childhood vaccines and controlling insects that spread disease.