Say goodbye to latex condoms – a team of Wollongong researchers is set to start work on the future of protection between the sheets.
Scientists from the University of Wollongong’s Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science have received $US100,000 ($107,900) to perform critical materials’ research into a new condom.
The ‘‘next-generation’’ contraceptive promises to enhance sexual pleasure, in the hope of improving its uptake worldwide.
Team leader Dr Robert Gorkin admitted to a few titters about his work but said the research could change the face of birth control.
‘‘Often people ask me ‘can I test [the condom]’,’’ he laughed.
‘‘It definitely gets a few chuckles but it’s something we need to have a frank conversation about; if it’s helping people, then I’m proud to be a part of it.’’
The funding, courtesy of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will be used to delve into hydrogels – a tough, potentially new prophylactic material.
Dr Gorkin said the material was known for its strength and stretchiness, making it a lot easier to manipulate.
‘‘A lot of people say they don’t use condoms because of the lack of sensitivity or they don’t like the feeling,’’ he said.
‘‘We want to screen these hydrogels to find the right one, something that satisfies all the needs for a condom - we want it to be comfortable, tough and provide the appropriate barrier.’’
The team is also keen to take their work to the streets, meeting with people worldwide to investigate the social, economic and cultural barriers to contraception.
‘‘We want to align with organisations so we can communicate directly with communities and find out what they would like in a condom,’’ Dr Gorkin said.
‘‘What may work in the Sudan may not be the same in Australia or in the US so we want to find out what people really want and incorporate that into the research.
‘‘This is an innovation-driven design, we want to start talking to people on the ground and have those sensitive conversations; it’s a very holistic approach.’’
The team may be able to apply for additional funding for the second phase of the project, which includes distribution, manufacturing and regulation.
Dr Gorkin is keen to have a product on the market as soon as possible.