This week on Behind the Breakthrough, we’re profiling Dr. Michael Manion, the director of Keon Research, a company dedicated to creating exciting and valuable inventions. Dr. Manion also serves as an Inventor & Portfolio Investment Manager at IV, where he is a consultant to the Invention Development Fund.
Dr. Manion’s impressive background in biophysics and physiology first led him to conduct groundbreaking research in cancer therapeutics, discovering new compounds from novel understandings of cell signaling. Since then, Dr. Manion has created more than 100 diverse inventions and continues to work on innovative ideas, anticipating the next big breakthrough.
Here are some of his reflections:
On why he enjoys being an inventor:
“You could say that I’ve been an inventor since I was a kid. I used to mess around with science and electronics since I was 10 or 11 – dissecting technology and trying to make something new out of it. I even had this “tinker space” all through school. But beyond the general love of inventing, I’m an inventor because I want to create things that deliver important value to society. My team and I strive to make a meaningful impact wherever we can – the medical world, materials, energy, anywhere. So my work is something I love to do and it makes the world a better place. It’s a great combination.”
On the most difficult aspect of inventing:
“Contrary to what you might believe, the actual inventing isn’t the hardest part. Of course that can take months and even years, but if you make something new and useful then you have to commercialize it – a challenging feat. For many of my inventions, I don’t know if I would have commercialized products without the help from IV. I probably would have had to mortgage my house and ask friends and family for help. Plus, even if all of that worked out, there is a 98 percent chance of failure in taking a nascent idea to market all alone. That’s why IV is so helpful – they allow me to come up with new ideas, even if they don’t all work out, and I can purely focus on my job of inventing. IV does the rest.”
On his favorite invention thus far:
“I am working on a project right now that has the potential to be game-changing. In response to a Request for Invention sponsored by Meat and Livestock Australia, my team has been working on the biochemical assessment of meat. It is really interesting because stress levels in cattle not only determine happiness, but also meat quality. Cattle, like everyone else, get stressed. And excessive stress can reduce the quality of the meat because of the biochemistry. So we came up with a concept we like to call a “smart tattoo” – a visible indicator tattooed on the animal that shows whether stress levels have been exceeded. When this happens, we can isolate the impacted animals to allow them to de-stress. Basically, if cortisol levels rise above a certain threshold in an animal, the tattoo changes color and we know to isolate them right away.”
“We are also developing similar tattoos to show when an animal has a fever, or when an animal is pregnant. There is a lot of utility in all of this, including giving appropriate antibiotics to the animals in the herd who need it, and not all at once. This could also allow us to make huge advancements in the monitoring of diseases. It is really exciting.”