With deep and broad knowledge in the bio sciences and a focus on biotechnology, Gary McKnight, Ph.D., is always up-to-date on the latest scientific advances as he pushes to identify the next breakthrough. For National Inventors Month, we sat down with Gary to hear more about his background and perspective on invention.
What was your path to Intellectual Ventures (IV)?
My academic background is in radiation biology, genetics and biochemistry, and I spent a good deal of time studying human genes and cellular metabolism. I worked for a biotech company for 25 years and during that time, I was involved in both yeast and human genetics. Towards the end of my time there, I was focused on bioinformatics, as the head of information services which included the library. With my background and understanding as it relates the bio sciences, I ended up here at IV, working under Rod Hyde with the Invention Science Fund (ISF).
What's the most interesting aspect of your job at IV?
The fun part about working at IV is that there are always new ideas that demand investigation. The other exciting piece is that we have people with such diverse backgrounds and extreme knowledge here on the team in ISF, and broadly at IV. You could think of any topic in the sciences and someone at IV is going to be able to immediately tell you about it. If you’re unsure of a specific answer, or just want a deeper understanding of a topic, you can literally just ask someone down the hall or dig into the literature. It’s truly remarkable and makes every day interesting.
Part of my job entails looking at the literature, scientific journals, and endeavoring to understand what’s new in emerging science. Every day is an opportunity to learn which makes coming to work about as exciting scientifically as you can get.
What does invention mean to you?
In part it’s about building on prior research, trying to look at unsolved problems and areas of unmet need. This involves trying to incorporate the newest information and technologies to move a certain field forward. During my time here, I’ve been fortunate enough to participate in a number of different invention sessions. It’s thrilling to contribute to the interplay of different minds from academic, commercial or foundation affiliations, who are all working together to make substantial progress and ultimately invent. Collaboration is essential to invention, but it is also vital during the evaluation process.
What drives you to invent?
I’ve continuously paid attention to emerging science, and coupled with that, I’m naturally inquisitive and have a broad set of interests. I’ve always kept up to date with journals, often reading the pre-prints prior to final publication. I like to say, better to know sooner than later. I completed my post doc at the University of Washington in genetics and medical genetics, which has provided me with exceptional training. Having lived in the Seattle area for 35 years, I know and maintain relationships with many people here in diverse areas of study and they continue to inspire me. That inspiration drives me and keeps me pushing great ideas forward.