A Massachusetts-based startup called MicroCHIPS, backed by the Gates Foundation has developed a small implantable contraceptive that can be wirelessly controlled with a remote and can dispense a drug upon activation. The chip will only need replacing every 16 years.

The microchip measures 20 mm x 20 mm x 7 mm and will be implanted under the skin in areas such as the buttocks, upper arm, or abdomen.

The microchip stores the hormone, levonorgestrel, in tiny reservoirs on the chip. These reservoirs are sealed with a platinum and titanium membrane before the chip is implanted. When a small electric charge from the internal battery is applied, the membrane seal melts in a controlled degradation, releasing 30 microgram dose of hormones into the body.

If a woman decides to conceive, she may turn the implant off with the remote control and restart the contraceptive with another click.

MicroCHIPS president Robert Farra stated that “The idea of using a thin membrane like an electric fuse was the most challenging and the most creative problem we had to solve”.

The microchip has been successfully used on osteoporosis patients and is looking to start pre-clinical testing as a contraceptive next year in the U.S. The device will possibly go on sale by 2018.

The challenge for the startup is to first ensure the security of the device to keep the wireless data flow private and secure and to avoid activation or deactivation by another person before they can file an application with the Food and Drug Administration.

Dr. Robert Farra said that “Someone across the room cannot re-programme your implant”, assuring that his team are taking measures to prevent misuse.

MicroCHIPS’ innovation comes at an ideal time where governments and non-profit organizations recently committed to provide more family planning for approximately 120 million women by 2020.

Currently, there are no contraceptive lasting longer than 5 years.

Should this technology be successful, it can be used for purposes other than contraceptive.