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Meet IV: Corrie Ortega

“What you’re looking for does not exist.” That was some frank advice Corrie Ortega once heard from her Ph.D. advisor at the University of Washington. “It just doesn’t exist,” she remembers him saying. “You can’t have this humanitarian focus and do things without your work being at the mercy of stakeholders and economics or finances.”

Meet IV: Corrie Ortega

Then, around the spring of 2015, Corrie learned about a research scientist position with Intellectual Ventures (IV) at the IV Lab. She applied and ended up meeting with Damian Madan, a principal investigator working with disease diagnostics and screening. “I interviewed with Damian and was like, ‘It does exist!’ People are interested in doing this [research] strictly because there are people in the world who need it, and those who need it most can’t necessarily pay for it.”

Corrie was sold—on the mission and the people at the Lab—and she joined IV in April of that year. Today, she leads a project to develop a test that supports cervical cancer screening in low-resource areas. It’s exciting work, she says, and a perfect culmination to many years of study, preparation and a little luck.

Chicago Roots
Corrie grew in Chicago’s South Side, where she attended Whitney Young High School (which Michelle Obama also attended). After graduation, she moved to Baltimore to attend Johns Hopkins University, where she worked part-time in a psychology lab focusing on brain science. She was enjoying that research, but then she heard of a different lab working on infectious disease. Her interest piqued, she soon transferred to the disease lab, where she would spend countless hours during the rest of her time at Hopkins. “It was very serendipitous,” she says.

One of the collaborators with that lab worked at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and through that connection Corrie later learned they needed a lab technician. She interviewed for the job, got it and moved down to Washington, D.C., after completing her degree.

Like her undergrad lab, her NIH program focused on vector biology in the context of infectious disease transmission—specifically, exploring the relationship between mosquitos and the Plasmodium falciparum parasite, which, when transmitted to a human through a mosquito bite, causes malaria (and is responsible for roughly half of all malaria cases in the world). They wanted to know how a mosquito is able to support the parasite’s life cycle for transmission, and also how to break that cycle.

Corrie’s two years at NIH further sharpened her interest in infectious disease, and she started looking at graduate programs where she could consider diseases within their full context—social, economic, geographic, regional, policy, etc. On the advice of a former advisor, she applied to the University of Washington’s Department of Global Health, where she ended up studying the relationship between Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which causes TB, and the enzymes that are active in different growth stages of the bacterium.

On to IV
About a year after completing her dissertation, she came across that job posting at IV. From her first conversation with Damian, Corrie knew it was the right fit. “We really hit it off,” she says, “and I hit it off with the team, and the work was like—it’s amazing. It was exactly what I was looking for.”

In her role with IV, she leads a molecular diagnostic project to develop a test to support cervical cancer screening in low-resource areas. Ninety-nine percent of cervical cancer cases are caused by a viral infection of the human papillomavirus (HPV), and screening and treatment programs in developed countries have proven hugely successful at reducing that rate of infection. “So we know it works,” says Corrie. “If you have proper screening, and it’s paired with effective treatments, you can dramatically drop the burden on women’s health related to cervical cancer.”

Specifically, her team is focused on designing a tool that would be able to support same-day screen and treat programs. The goal, says Corrie, is to make the process as easy as possible for the end user, meaning women would be able to come in, have a test done, get the results in about 30 minutes, and then have a health care provider walk them through the next steps.

They are currently in early-stage development of the diagnostic, and they’re working with a partner, QuantuMDx, to build the device that will run the screening test. It is designed to be portable—something that could fit in a backpack—in order to reach remote locations easily. Corrie’s team has a prototype of the device, and they’ve tested it with a panel of patient samples with promising results. “We’re pumped,” she says. “We’ve gotten really encouraging data just in the last couple weeks, and we’re planning for field evaluations this year.”

From there, they’ll focus on integration: Taking what they’ve developed, incorporating what they learn in the field, tailoring it to QuantuMDx’s materials and device, and merging all the pieces to make a final product—one that could end up helping countless women in the developing world.  


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Meet IV: Kelly Roche

Patent licensing—from initial conversations with a customer to actually closing a deal—can be an immensely complex, delicate and lengthy process.

Meet IV: Kelly Roche

“It’s on the order of magnitude of years, not months, that we get deals done,” says Kelly Roche, a portfolio director with the Invention Investment Fund (IIF) at Intellectual Ventures. “You need to be adaptive enough, agile enough, to anticipate where things are going to be moving, so you can provide guidance that is necessary to get things done.”

Kelly has been with IV for more than seven years, and he’s worked on patent licensing from a number of angles. He started in market strategy and analytics and later shifted to roles in business and program development, supporting the patent sales team. Now, in his current position he is responsible for monetization strategy, which involves managing two analysts. He’s had to develop new skills and perspectives with each role, and he says that state of constant learning—of forward, proactive thinking—is one of the hallmarks of his experience at IV.

“You’ve got to be curious and interested in learning a lot of different things,” he says. “I think that is indicative of inventing something, starting something, building something, where you need to have a depth of knowledge, but you also have to have the breadth of knowledge and the ability to learn new things quickly to be successful.”

Done Deal
Kelly was born in California and actually grew up in Santa Clara, only a few miles from where he works in IV’s current Silicon Valley office. After high school, he attended New York University, where he earned dual degrees in finance and economics. He enjoyed his three years there, but ultimately the weather—as well as the pull of family and his girlfriend (now wife)—tugged him home to California after graduation. He keenly remembers one spring surprise, in fact, that finally broke his spirit. “I’m in class,” he says, “and it starts snowing outside in April, and I’m like, ‘This is ridiculous. I’ve got to get out of here.’”


So he moved back to California and landed a role as an analyst with a patent licensing company in Cupertino. “Doing my undergrad program,” Kelly says, “I wanted to get into investment banking, maybe consulting, research, something along those lines. That’s what initially drew me into the analyst role when I moved back, because it was a lot of research about company financials, products and things like that. I thought it was a good foundation.”

Around that time, Kelly first learned about IV through a TED Talk Nathan Myhrvold gave in 2010, when he spoke about the photonic fence—or “mosquito zapper,” as Kelly remembers it—among other impact inventions. “I’d watched that and was like, ‘Wow, that’s amazing, what a cool way to address a difficult challenge.’”

That memory was still fresh when two of his coworkers moved over to IV, and Kelly soon followed them—feeling excited to join a company that was involved in a whole lot more than patent licensing. But Kelly couldn’t have guessed how dynamic and multidimensional his work would end up being. 

In his current position, Kelly spends part of his day at a higher strategic level, thinking about what the next pipeline for business might look like, industry trends, coordinating and leading cross-functional teams, evaluating which accounts might close or what revenues might look like this year. Yet he also has to dive deeper into the details and tactics for particular accounts to make sure they’re executing on their plans. That might include gathering data and answering internal requests for information, or providing guidance for licensing executives on pricing or other elements of a negotiation. “So it fluctuates from high-level down to nitty-gritty details,” he says, “and everywhere in between. Getting licensing deals done is tricky, it’s challenging, and it requires a lot of different skillsets.”

Learning Curve
Those skillsets, says Kelly, are multifaceted and constantly evolving at IV. To keep up with his field and the business world more generally, he started devouring a wide range of books. He dug into Seth Godin and his writing on marketing and sales, as well as Ben Horowitz’s The Hard Thing About Hard Things and Andy Grove’s High Output Management, covering topics from how to be an executive and run organizations to sales strategies. He absorbed books about how to put himself in the shoes of the customers—the licensees—and listened to TED Talks from Simon Sinek and Rory Sutherland, among others, to learn more about leadership and how perspective is everything.

Operating in this state of flux—flowing between theory and practice, hard numbers and human behavior—is a big part of what motivates Kelly. And whatever the challenge, whether it’s leading a team or learning a new skill, he has a clear strategy for how to stay ahead of the change. “Read smart people and what their experiences were like, and try to apply that to my every day,” he says. “It’s been fun so far.”


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Founder and CEO Nathan Myhrvold Upends Asteroid Assumptions in New Study

In a new study published in the journal Icarus, Nathan argues that astronomers don’t have as good a handle on the size and other physical characteristics of asteroids as they previously thought. 

Founder and CEO Nathan Myhrvold Upends Asteroid Assumptions in New Study

In particular, Nathan identifies major flaws in the methods used by the NASA-funded NEOWISE project—a mission that analyzed data on some 164,000 asteroids observed by the WISE space telescope—and demonstrates that many of the asteroid diameter estimates and other results published by the project are irreproducible and significantly less accurate than claimed. The new study is the first independent analysis to critically examine those results and the scientific methods used by the NEOWISE project, which was led by a team at the Caltech Jet Propulsion Lab.

The Icarus article is an update of work Nathan published in preprint form in May 2016 on arXiv.org, and his latest findings have drawn coverage in the New York Times. Learn more background on the research and why it matters on Medium and in Retraction Watch, or read the full study.


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Meet IV: Helen Hsieh

Lateral flow tests, when used to diagnose the presence of infectious diseases, are relatively inexpensive and elegantly simple to use. They involve applying a biological sample—of blood or urine, for instance—to one end of a test strip. As the sample flows up the strip, it encounters various reagents, which are designed to produce a chemical reaction when they come in contact with a particular target, such as a protein, bacteria, parasite or virus. If your target is present, you’ll get a clear visual signal, an “aha” moment, like seeing a bar appear on a pregnancy test moments after peeing on a stick. 

Meet IV: Helen Hsieh

The key to this technology—and what makes it especially crucial for the developing world—is all the research that goes into it behind the scenes to make it so portable, affordable and easy to use at the point of execution. That’s precisely the legwork that a number of scientists at the IV Lab are putting in “under the hood,” says Helen Hsieh, a research scientist who works in the Flow-based Diagnostics group (also known as FlowDx).

Helen came to Intellectual Ventures about three years ago after spending more than 20 years with Becton, Dickinson and Company (BD), a medical technology company that manufactures and sells medical devices, instrument systems and reagents. Today, she’s part of a team focused largely on increasing the sensitivity of diagnostic tests for malaria and tuberculosis. The more sensitive the tool, the sooner you can pick up the disease before it has further multiplied. That can make a huge difference in treatment, and also make you more certain you aren’t missing any patients who carry the pathogen at lower levels (Helen was lead author on a paper about some of this LFA research published last year).

In addition to its impact on global health, Helen’s role features two of her other favorite things—lots of creative troubleshooting and “cool shiny instruments”—and feeds her lifelong belief that science should be fun!   

Cross-Country Career Shift
Helen, who split her childhood between Pennsylvania and Alabama, studied chemistry as an undergrad at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and then again for her Ph.D. at the University of North Carolina (UNC). She developed expertise in both biological and physical chemistry along the way, and that experience, as Helen was wrapping up her doctoral program, helped her land the position with BD at its research center in Research Triangle Park, just down the road from UNC.

She would end up working for BD for two decades, with her research focused on developing diagnostic tests for infectious and chronic diseases. One of her favorite projects was the BD ProbeTec ET™, a nucleic acid amplification system used to detect chlamydia, gonorrhea and other STDs. “A lot of times you work on something and it doesn’t actually go anywhere,” says Helen, “so that was nice in that it became a product.”

After relatives in Seattle coaxed Helen to add the Pacific Northwest to her search list for new job opportunities, Helen discovered an intriguing opening in the FlowDx group at IV Lab, which was hiring several scientists with experience developing assays—laboratory procedures, in this case, designed to detect malaria or TB. It was a perfect fit for her.

Helen has thoroughly enjoyed the experience so far, very much including the collaborative atmosphere at the Lab. “I like that everybody is willing to share knowledge and advice,” she says. “You have such a different group of people—biologists with experience in tissue culture, and engineers—and the engineers will suggest something that the biologist just wouldn’t have thought of, and vice versa. You’ve got that cross-pollination. Because the engineers are in the building with us, you’ve got that conversation going.”

Life at the Lab has also rekindled the more playful side of science for Helen—the simple joy of discovery, she says, you often see in 8-year-olds when you’re explaining something cool. “There’s a giant [Babbage] calculator downstairs, there’s literally a rocket engine, there’s the [dino] tail. Sometimes science is just fun!”


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Intellectual Ventures Develops the First Offline Virtual Malaria Microscopy Training Course

The World Health Organization-approved eLearning tool can be used regardless of Internet access.

Intellectual Ventures Develops the First Offline Virtual Malaria Microscopy Training Course

There are more than 200 million cases of malaria worldwide every year, with roughly half a million deaths. While some populations are equipped to confront the malaria threat, many countries still face significant barriers in both early detection and healthcare provider training and support. Intellectual Ventures’ Global Good Fund is using science and technology to invent new solutions to reduce barriers to global health, especially in the fight against malaria.

To address a need for accurate malaria diagnosis, we are pleased to be working with Amref Health Africa, the largest Africa-based nonprofit organization delivering health services to over 30 countries on the continent, to provide a new accessible tool for laboratory professionals and health workers: the Worldwide E-Learning Course on Malaria Microscopy (WELCOMM).

As microscopy remains a major method for identifying malaria parasites in patients’ blood, continuing education is essential for microscopists to improve their skills to achieve accurate results and to prepare for WHO certification exams. Classes are traditionally delivered through in-person re-training courses, which can be difficult to access for health workers from remote, rural areas and technicians in busy laboratories.

In 2017 Global Good partnered with microscope industry leader Motic to develop the EasyScan Go, an internet-networked, artificially intelligent microscope that automatically scans, identifies and counts malaria parasites. The EasyScan Go is expected to help healthcare workers manage malaria through accurate Plasmodium parasite detection and monitoring during treatment.

To implement the project, the Global Good team -- with generous contributions from malaria research partners across the globe -- compiled a large digital library of malaria microscope slides to train the EasyScan Go’s core machine-learning algorithm. And now microscopists across the world can use images from that same library within a self-directed eLearning course incorporating virtual microscopy software provided by PathXL, a leading virtual microscopy development group.  

This in-service eLearning course is available on a standard USB drive, so microscopists can access it regardless of geography or ability to access the Internet. All they need is access to a computer.

The course is designed to be consistent with WHO standards, and incorporates instructional content in five modules:

  1. Introduction to malaria and global epidemiology
  2. Blood collection, preparation and staining of blood films
  3. Blood film examination, including all malaria species and other blood parasites
  4. Non-microscopic methods for diagnosing malaria
  5. Laboratory quality management systems.

Pre-testing was performed in 11 countries across Africa, Asia and South America, and our hope is that through partnerships with organizations like Amref Health Africa, this eLearning tool will make quality malaria services more accessible, no matter where a patient or provider is located.

For more information on the Worldwide E-Learning Course on Malaria Microscopy (WELCOMM), please visit www.amref.ac.ke.

Meet IV: Phillip Wallace

“For some reason, I’ve had an interest in politics since a very young age, even when I was a teenager,” says Phillip Wallace, who joined Intellectual Ventures (IV) as government relations manager in spring 2015. “When I was in high school, I was always in student government, I was my class president every year. I always enjoyed the student elections.”

Meet IV: Phillip Wallace

Phillip grew up in Baton Rouge, La., about an hour north of New Orleans, and he went on to study political science and economics at Southern University in his hometown. “Political science was a very natural choice for me,” he says. “I wasn’t one of the college students who struggled to find a major, or didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I was interested in the political process.”

The logical next step for Phillip after he graduated was to move to the nerve center of national politics: Washington, D.C. His first job on Capitol Hill was with Senator Mary Landrieu from his home state, and then he decided to further his education by pursuing a master’s degree in public policy at George Washington University. “You don’t get much more political than being blocks away from the U.S. State Department and the White House,” he says, “having professors who’ve had distinguished careers in government and politics.”

His graduate school experience steered him to a position in the government affairs office with Hyundai Motor America, a subsidiary of Hyundai Motor Company. Phillip enjoyed his role with Hyundai and stayed there for 2.5 years, but then he saw an opportunity with IV in 2015. “I knew that after working for such a large company,” he says, “I wanted to take advantage of a company that had greater flexibility, and those tend to be smaller companies, companies with 1,000 people or less. Their day-to-day business is innovation, they know how to be quick and adapt.”

That’s why the D.C.-based government relations office at IV felt like a great fit for him, and he now says—with his trademark sincerity—that his work has become “so natural that a lot of times what I do now doesn’t really feel like work.” 

At the Office
Today, Phillip’s role as senior manager of government relations takes many shapes. “I spend probably about 40 percent of my time doing what I consider retail lobbying: examining issues that are important to the business, whether it’s tax reform and tax policies, or whether we’re talking about patent reform, or looking at bills that impact the patent system.”

This sort of retail lobbying, says Phillip, often involves him going to Capitol Hill and meeting with members of Congress and their staff, occasionally meeting with regulatory officials in the new administration, and a range of other events and activities.

He then spends another 35 to 40 percent of his time making sure IV is visible in the right places, such as at industry conferences (when we caught up with him recently, he was at the Center for the Protection of Intellectual Property’s Fifth Annual Fall Conference, “Real Intellectual Property Reform”).

Another huge project for Phillip, starting in 2016, has been organizing the first two Intellectual Ventures Expos on Capitol Hill. “In an ideal world,” he says, “it would be perfect if we were able to get every member of Congress and their staffers over to the IV Lab in Bellevue to see what we do on a day-to-day basis. Obviously, that’s not feasible, so I said, ‘Well, the next best thing is to bring some of the Lab to D.C. and show them what we’ve got.’ So we did. We took up space in one of the larger ballrooms on Capitol Hill on the House side and literally flew in the photonic fence, technology from various spinouts like Evolv and Pivotal [Commware] and Kymeta and TerraPower, and in kind of a science fair expo format, opened it up to the entire Hill and the general public. And we had tremendous success.”

Both expos were filled to capacity, and that success was a big part of what earned Phillip one of IV’s annual awards recognizing employees in 2016. “Yeah, that was a great surprise to me,” he says. “I was not expecting that, and honestly, it’s really a team effort. It takes a lot of work to pull off bringing that kind of equipment to Capitol Hill. The security checkpoints, the protocol to follow—it’s really a gigantic team effort that involved a lot of people.”

The 2018 expo is coming up on May 10, and Phillip is looking forward to the ‘wow’ factor. “My favorite part of my work is wowing people,” he says. “We show someone the type of technology we’re working on, or are capable of, or something in our pipeline for commercialization, and people are like, ‘Wow.’ People literally say ‘wow.’ It’s just very innovative.”


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Meet IV: Megan Bettilyon

“Every single day, I am exposed to new information, new technology, new ideas, new ways of just thinking about a particular topic,” says Megan Bettilyon, director of inventive government solutions and Global Good special projects. “There is not a day that goes by that I don’t learn something new.”

Meet IV: Megan Bettilyon

Nothing about Megan’s position is predictable, and that’s exactly how she likes it. She thrives on the diversity of her roles, from serving as field manager for the Arktek™ before its commercialization; to working with partners at the United Nations; to traveling to D.C. to collaborate with our government relations team on Capitol Hill; to managing IV’s programs that involve cooperation with the U.S. government; to other projects relating to climate change, nutrition and global health. “I get paid to learn,” she says. “I get paid to investigate and understand how these new technologies and these potential partners could have an immense impact on the work we’re doing in low-resources nations. And that is extremely exciting for me.”

Beyond the excitement of her work, though, is a more fundamental connection with the culture at Intellectual Ventures (IV). There’s a palpable energy, Megan says, that drives the people and research here—a shared personality and mission, a sense of being surrounded by kindred, curious, creative spirits. “I’ve been a ‘nerd’ my entire life,” she says, “and I am damn proud of it. When I was a kid, it was a hard name to be called, but I have embraced it. And at the Lab, there are just as many people who are just as nerdy or geeky as I am about the things they love. Everybody there has a passion, something they truly jive on, and that is cool.”

From Algae to IV
Before joining IV, Megan—who was born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah—had explored a wide range of social and scientific interests. As an undergrad and then graduate student at the University of California San Diego, she studied everything from anthropology and Middle Eastern archeology, to marine biodiversity and conservation, renewable energy, domestic energy security for low-resource nations, even the enormous promise of algae. One of the common threads of her studies, though, has always been technology and how it impacts the world. “I’ve always been fascinated by how technological progress in any society can have a profound impact on the society itself,” she says.  

So when Megan first learned about IV and the Global Good Fund—which harnesses the power of technology and invention to solve humanitarian challenges in the developing world—she was  immediately intrigued. “I looked it up,” she says, “and was like, ‘Wow, this is what I do. This is my Nirvana. I looked online to see if they had any jobs, and they had just posted a program manager position the day before—it was a complete fluke.”

IV Impact
That was more than four and a half years ago. Megan has since worked on numerous projects for IV, and she can recall many highlights from among them. Yet the biggest standout has to be one of her earlier positions when she was working as the field manager for the Arktek™, a storage device that has the power to keep vaccines at their proper temperature for more than a month, even in scorching desert heat.

“The Arktek is still definitely, absolutely my favorite,” she says. “We’ve changed the way mothers in these remote villages handle healthcare and the vaccination of their children. They now know that a health post with an Arktek has safe and efficacious vaccines every single day of the month. They no longer have to wait until that one day when a nurse has the vaccines, and she would go out and do a campaign. Now they can come out to the clinic any day they want.”

So much about that experience has stuck with Megan—working closely with nurses at remote health posts, giving trainings and performing ad hoc repairs, working through monsoons, no electricity and other chaotic challenges in the field. But the biggest takeaway, by far, was the impact on the health of thousands of children in developing countries around the world. “These devices vaccinate children that were previously unable to be vaccinated by efficacious vaccines,” says Megan. “This is huge. It means more kids are being vaccinated, and the farther out we’re able to reach, the more children we’re going to be able to help.”

 


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Nathan Myhrvold on AI and Why There’s Nothing to Fear

Is artificial intelligence (AI) a boon or bane for humanity? 

Technologists have been grappling with this question for years, and invariably, the conversation returns to fear that these changes will displace millions of workers, lead to widespread hardship and throw society into economic crisis.

Our founder and CEO Nathan Myhrvold recently delivered the World Traders 2018 Tacitus Lecture to discuss this fear, which he calls the “innovation menace.” In his lecture, he recounts how history has illustrated that the “doom and gloom” conversation around new technologies is, and always has been, wrong—and why we needn't fear that progress in AI will outstrip society's ability to ensure that the technology improves our lives.

View the video below to watch Nathan deliver the London World Traders Guild annual Tacitus Lecture, in which distinguished speakers deliver remarks on a concern affecting world trade.

IV CEO and founder Nathan Myhrvold delivers his Tacitus Lecture at the City of London's Guildhall on February 22, 2018. Photograph copyright Jake Sugden.

Nathan delivers his Tacitus Lecture at the City of London's Guildhall on February 22, 2018. Photographs copyright Jake Sugden.


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Meet IV: Guillaume Chabot-Couture

Seven years ago, Guillaume Chabot-Couture had just finished his Ph.D. at Stanford University. A native of Quebec City in Canada, Guillaume had studied physics as an undergrad at Université Laval in his hometown, and then high-temperature superconductors for his recently completed dissertation. His next move, though, was fairly wide open.   

Meet IV: Guillaume Chabot-Couture

Hiking the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island

“I was considering many of the usual routes at the end of a graduate degree,” he says: “working for a national laboratory, trying to get a postdoc in academia, or joining a large company. I was also looking at other areas, patent law and different ways to apply this knowledge.”

Through a bit of happenstance, says Guillaume, a friend reached out to him about a possible opportunity with Intellectual Ventures and its Epidemiological Modeling (EMOD) project, led by Philip Welkhoff. At the time, it was a small group of people inventing ways to build more realistic simulations of disease transmission, with a focus on improving and saving lives in developing countries using quantitative analysis. “When I had the opportunity to interview for this job, which combined analytics and mathematical modeling with a field that was largely unknown to me—communicable diseases, global health—I think my curiosity kicked in in a big way. I thought it sounded really interesting and wanted to learn more about it.”

Guillaume ended up getting the job, and EMOD has since grown about tenfold into what is now the Institute for Disease Modeling (IDM). As a senior research manager, he leads multiple teams working on building models of disease transmission and incidence, as well as other tools to help accelerate the eradication of infectious diseases in the developing world. “I think they took a chance hiring me, someone who didn’t know much about disease modeling, but it’s the best job I’ve ever had,” he says.

A New Field
IV often draws from varied, even unlikely, backgrounds to build research teams, as each new perspective can lead to unexpected insights and results. For Guillaume, after spending most of his student life studying physics, that meant trading superconductors for disease modeling. And that transition, while not exactly obvious, still very much triggered the same curiosity and potential for far-reaching impact that has always driven his work.

His team at IDM focuses on a number of vaccine-preventable diseases in the developing world, including poliomyelitis (polio) and measles, and they also tackle questions related to vaccine delivery. “One of the great strengths of a model is its ability to ask what-if questions,” says Guillaume, and he estimates that 80 to 90 percent of their work involves testing polio eradication strategies and implementation, and designing models that could have profound effects on disease prevention and eradication around the world.

A key element of this research involves partnering with other organizations—such as the Gates Foundation, World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and a range of academic institutions—as well as directly with countries. “You can’t look just at problems that are interesting from an academic point of view,” he says. “You have this imperative to be relevant and to connect with what the real problems are. So we try really hard to build collaborations with people within these countries, within these programs, to make sure what we work on is going to be the most helpful. Without that connection to what’s really happening, we wouldn’t be as effective.”

One of the most memorable collaborations for Guillaume came in 2012 with a project in Pakistan. They were working on a model to predict the spread of polio, but when they first got started, they didn’t know how effective their predictions would be—or even if partners on the ground in Pakistan would accept the data. “There’s always a little bit of uncertainty when you begin a new collaboration,” he says. “You don’t know how much you’ll be able to help, or how good your models are going to be.”

Initially, Guillaume says no one took their predictions seriously. It was one of the first models the team had built, and they were essentially outsiders trying to influence strategic decisions within Pakistan. Then a polio case appeared in an unexpected area.

“We didn’t know right away,” he says, “but one of our predictions—one of the ones that people had dismissed—turned out to be true in a northern part of Pakistan, where people generally believed it’s too cold for polio to survive and to transmit. That’s one thing we had predicted, and no one really understood how we had been able to predict it.”

That success was a huge breakthrough for the team. “There was this interest all the sudden in this new method we had come up with that could predict these cases and outbreaks,” says Guillaume. “From that point on, we transitioned from an outside group that’s trying to show we can add value, to being invited to contribute to the strategic process these countries had in thinking about how to tackle polio. So I remember that being a really exciting time.”

For Guillaume personally, as well, that engagement really reinforced the value of his research. “I took a leap in leaving physics,” he says, “but that was one of the measurable moments, like, ‘Ok, this was a good decision. This is turning out to be a really interesting job with opportunities to impact global health in meaningful ways on a short timeline.”


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Accelerating Impact

ISF Incubator calls for entrepreneurs who want to bring next-generation tech to big markets

Accelerating Impact

For years, Intellectual Ventures (IV) has built business on the back of new technologies: To date we’ve created 15 companies, which have raised more than $700 million in funding and created more than 400 jobs. With each company, we’ve learned how to work faster and smarter, and now we are accelerating this model by launching the Invention Science Fund (ISF) Incubator—a team within IV that matches outside entrepreneurs with our inventions and resources to disrupt big markets like health, telecommunications and transportation.

It’s a different approach to the incubator model. We have the inventions, the resources, and the know-how, and now we need passionate entrepreneurs who can execute.

Access to our state-of-the-art lab, our patent portfolio, and our network of engineers, mentors and investors means we can provide the tools for success—whether it’s a piece of special equipment from our mechanical engineering and instrument fabrication shop to create a prototype, or assistance setting up a business and navigating the legal landscape. We believe the best way to bring cutting-edge science and new technology to market is to put it in the hands of the most capable, passionate people, and provide the necessary resources to build a business.

And we’re not looking to build just any business, we invent for impact. Past IV spinouts like Evolv, Kymeta and Echodyne developed hardware solutions to transform their market, and we continue to believe hardware is the catalyst for fundamental change in big markets. The current pipeline of ISF Incubator spinouts is poised to do the same with breakthroughs in low-cost sensors, wireless power transmission, and biomedical devices.

So who are we looking for? We like ambitious entrepreneurs, fundable CEOs and market disruptors who have experience launching startups and leading successful companies. If this sounds like you, check out our available patents to learn more, and feel free to drop us a note.

Christine Bachman

Christine Bachman

Christine is the Global Health Technologies Field Research Manager for Global Good.

Conrad Burke

Conrad Burke

Conrad is the Vice President of New Ventures the Invention Science Fund. He is based in Silicon Valley, California and is a serial entrepreneur who most recently sold his startup company, Innovalight, a nanomaterials technology firm specialized in the photovoltaics (solar) sector, to DuPont Corporation. He subsequently managed two different global marketing businesses within DuPont – photovoltaics materials and bioscience enzymes.

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BURN Manufacturing and Intellectual Ventures’ Global Good are co-developing a clean burning indoor stove that will… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…

Oct 22

Mantis shrimp have some of the most developed eyes on the planet, and University of Illinois researchers are using… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…

Oct 21

For the first time using gene editing and stem cells, scientists have created a mouse from the genetic makeup of tw… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…

Oct 20