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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.

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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.”

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Story Behind the Story: More on IV’s Photonic Fence with Arty Makagon

From Star Wars and Star Trek to James Bond and the Terminator, lasers have become a staple of the science fiction and action film worlds. But since their invention 57 years ago, the day-to-day use of lasers is no longer fantasy. Today, lasers find powerful and wide-ranging use in science, medicine, the military and now, even disease control. 

Story Behind the Story: More on IV’s Photonic Fence with Arty Makagon

Global Good’s Photonic Fence, or “insect-zapping laser” as described in a recent MIT Technology Review article, has extended the potential for lasers even further. Though originally developed to control vector-borne diseases like malaria, the technology is now being deployed to the agricultural battle ground of Florida to engage another potent pest. The enemy: an insect invader destroying the sunshine state’s oranges.

To get the inside scoop on the battle-ready weapon, we sat down with Photonic Fence technical project lead Arty Makagon to discuss how the technology works, how it’s progressed since its first generation and why it has the power to defeat the Asian citrus psyllid.

IV Insights: How far have you come since the first generation of the Photonic Fence?

Arty: We started with the question – can [the device] see far? We checked that off with our first-generation prototype. For Gen-2, we wanted to know - can we see targets both near and far? We started climbing the technology ladder. Now, with Gen-3, can we see near and far and kill and start hitting our performance benchmarks on controlling the pest we’re after.

We’ve also worked to understand and fine-tune the lethal mechanism so that when the bugs are killed, they don’t even look damaged. We have videos of earlier tests where you can see via high-speed camera that we burned the wings off mosquitos. That’s neat to watch, but it turns out that it’s gratuitous overkill – and so that isn’t how the machine works now. After we shoot a bug, when we look at it under a microscope, we can’t tell where it was shot – there are no singe marks and no gaping wounds.

So how did the bug die? We sent samples to the University of Washington histology lab and found out that essentially we end up cooking the bug. Our laser acts like a very precise, “short-wavelength microwave oven”. When you look at a cross-section of a chicken breast cooked in a microwave and a cross section of a bug dosed with a laser, they essentially look the same.

What’s the big deal about the Asian citrus psyllid?

The psyllid is a problem that’s screaming for a solution. Since its high 15 years ago, there’s been a 60 percent reduction in total citrus production in Florida. You may not have noticed, but the makeup of your carton of orange juice has been changing over the years as the varieties of oranges that are best suited to juice production are dying off.

The Asian citrus psyllid is also particularly insidious because it spreads a virus and can infect an entire tree rather than ruining individual pieces of fruit like other pests. Because the psyllid is so destructive, farmers have been trying all kinds of creative methods to control the pest. They’ve deployed everything from parasite wasps that eat the early stage psyllids to planting sacrificial species – like guava – that the psyllids appeared to prefer. But despite these efforts, there are bunch of now-derelict groves in Florida that are just so infested that they can’t be used.

Other citrus growing states are on the cusp of having a big psyllid problem, but there’s nothing they can do about it. Lots of places are spending a lot of money on trying to prevent the psyllid, but with very little success. The psyllid and the virus they spread are both in Texas and California. Growers are trying to monitor how the psyllids are spreading, but even those mechanisms aren’t terribly effective.

In short, we’re working in this area because this is not a Florida problem or even a U.S. problem – the Asian citrus psyllid is a global problem. And no one has found a solution to this problem, short of “run away and plant in regions less hospitable to psyllids.”

How do people react when they see the Photonic Fence in action?

I think the best way to describe it for first-time viewers is disbelief.

We do two kinds of demonstrations at the IV Lab with the Photonic Fence – a tracking demo and a lethal demo – and both can be kind of dumbfounding in different ways. For the tracking demo, you can watch a screen that shows what’s happening in real time for a box of bugs that’s 60 meters away. It takes a minute for the brain to process that the machine is seeing something that would be effectively impossible to see with the human eye.

For the lethal demo, you start with a box of 25 mosquitos and within a few seconds, there are 25 mosquito corpses on the floor of the box. This also takes a minute to register, because you can’t see anything except for mosquitos falling to the ground because the laser in our system is outside of the visible range.

Missed the original story? Check it out on MIT Technology Review. And stay tuned for more “behind the interview” information from our experts on Insights.

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How Ingenuity Is Art: Top Invention Stories from February

In 2002, Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman in space said, “The difference between science and the arts is not that they are different sides of the same coin… they are manifestations of the same thing. The art and sciences are avatars of human creativity.” 

How Ingenuity Is Art: Top Invention Stories from February

While creativity is often associated with art in its most traditional sense – sculptures, paintings, photography – Jemison reminds us that scientific innovation is a work of art in itself. In fact, creativity is intrinsically tied to much of our work. Whether we’re building cutaways of our technology, discovering ways to detect disease, or creating a new method to store milk, finding answers to pressing global challenges requires the imaginative ability to see beyond pre-existing ideas.

So this month, the links we love tell tales of artists both within and outside the walls of IV who, like Jemison, use the power of thought as their paintbrush – leaving their mark through inventions that improve our world.

IV in the news

This month, IV spinout Kymeta reached a new milestone in its satellite antenna internet technology for connected vehicles. Find out about its successful demo of the tech from GeekWire. The technology disruptor connecting our world was also named to Fast Company’s top-10 most innovative companies in space.

IV’s work with the University of Washington and Duke University on wireless charging technology was featured on Seattle’s KIRO7 and described as “pushing the boundaries of physics.”

IV is working on a device to detect fake drugs that can be easily accessed in the developing world. Learn more in The Guardian about IV’s collaborative effort with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and how it could save lives.

At IV, we’re working to make Nikola Tesla’s dream of wireless charging a reality using metamaterials. Hear firsthand from IV’s Russell Hannigan on the technology that could be charging drones wirelessly in the near future.  

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How New Cervical Cancer Screening Technology Could Save the Lives of Hundreds of Thousands of Women

On World Cancer Day, Global Good and QuantuMDx have announced a new partnership to develop a rapid, low-cost and mobile diagnostic test that could make a tremendous difference in the global fight against cervical cancer. 

How New Cervical Cancer Screening Technology Could Save the Lives of Hundreds of Thousands of Women

Source: Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon  

Cervical cancer is almost entirely preventable, yet it kills nearly 270,000 women worldwide every year. Yet, as deaths from the slow-growing disease drop in the U.S., women in the developing world are dying at an unprecedented rate.  That’s because many of these women who have human papillomavirus (HPV) – the leading cause of cervical cancer – don’t return to health facilities to receive follow up care. A point-of-care HPV test that provides health workers with immediate results, allowing them to screen and treat women during a single visit, is critical.  

Enter QuantuMDx and Global Good, working together to harness the wide-ranging benefits of QuantuMDx’s technology platform including the speed, accessibility and affordability of its battery-operated portable Q-POC™ diagnostic laboratory along with the global health expertise of Global Good, to make gold standard HPV testing accessible to women worldwide.

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It’s What’s Inside That Counts: the Arktek Revealed

In this video, we’ll show you how we told the story of the magic behind — or rather inside — the Arktek™, which received a USPTO Patents for Humanity Award in 2016. 

In order to produce these visuals, our team develops cutaways, or diagrams and prototypes with some external parts left out to reveal the inside. You may already be familiar with the Modernist Cuisine team’s use of cutaways to depict their work. After all, the best way to show the science of cooking is to see what’s actually going on inside the pot. And while these Modernist Cuisine photos are perhaps the most prominent cutaways – on display in museums as part of a traveling exhibit and in several cookbooks – we also use them to tell stories of our life-saving inventions.

A few years ago, for an exhibit in the Bezos Center for Innovation at the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI), our team created a cutaway of Global Good’s Arktek. The vaccine storage device can store a month’s supply of vaccines for a village of 6,000 people in 100 degree plus heat, without electricity. The innovative technology was developed by our team of inventors, rocket scientists, industrial engineers and health experts to save lives in countries with the lowest immunization rates in the world.

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IV’s Best Nine of 2016: Nine Pictures Worth 9,000 Words

The first photograph made in a camera was taken in the 1820s. Because of the early photographic process, the image is difficult to view. In fact, at first glance, it can be hard to see the image at all. However, if viewed from a specific angle and in specific lighting, the image’s unique story comes to life. Almost 200 years later, this notion that an image has the power to capture a pivotal moment in time if taken and viewed in the right circumstances still holds true. Some images need context. Others require the photographer to zoom in, zoom out, or even change the angle of the camera, to tell the full story.

IV’s Best Nine of 2016: Nine Pictures Worth 9,000 Words

As 2016 comes to a close, we’re depicting the year of ideas, inspiration and invention through nine of our favorite pictures that were taken at just the right moment in time. Because while the world of invention propels us forward quickly, it’s important to remember the milestones of progress that helped us get where we are today.

This year, IV’s Global Good won the USPTO Patents for Humanity Award for harnessing the power of invention to solve humanity’s biggest challenges. Among the team’s technology that is changing lives is the Arktek™ – a device that can store a month’s supply of vaccines in 100-degree heat without electricity. This photograph was captured last summer, when a team from Global Good traveled to Ethiopia’s Danakil Desert to observe how the Arktek is helping the community. Explore the impact the Arktek is making across Nigeria, Ethiopia, Senegal, India, Nepal and Fiji here

Photo credit: Peter Prato

IV founder and CEO Nathan Myhrvold shared his thoughts on the innovation landscape and emerging technologies with many different audiences this year. He was the keynote speaker at the annual Bloomberg Technology Conference where he spoke about IV’s unique approach to inventing and his top tips on what it takes to be a good inventor. Nathan also took part in a “fireside chat” at this year’s GeekWire Summit where he covered metamaterials, investing in invention and creating technology to transform lives. Finally, Nathan spoke at the Science|Business Horizon2020 conference in Brussels about the importance of risk-taking in innovation.

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Top 16 Invention Stories That Had You Talking in 2016

Transformative invention requires an element of idealism – calling on the dreamers, visionaries and optimists who imagine a better world. But truly life-changing invention demands more than just an imagination for a brighter future. There needs to be an element of pragmatism in invention – a trailblazer who creates an idea that bridges the gap between a vision for the distant future, and reality in the here and now. 

Top 16 Invention Stories That Had You Talking in 2016

It is in this space – where idealism meets ideas – that the magic of invention is brought to life. And as we look back on the 2016 inventions created around the world, and within our own walls at IV, we find inventors who pictured a better world and found a solution to make it happen. So before ringing in the New Year, join us as we share our favorite stories of what was achieved this year through the magic of invention.

Intellectual Ventures Invents for Impact

IV’s flow-based diagnostic malaria test was profiled in Scientific American. Want more on how IV is innovating to fight malaria? Senior vice president of Global Good & Research Maurizio Vecchione joined Seattle’s top thought leaders to share his thoughts on the best approach to eradicating malaria by 2040.

This year, Puget Sound Business Journal took readers on a tour of IV Lab – home to a rocket engine, a particle accelerator, a simulated dinosaur tail and most importantly, our team of problem solvers.

Nathan Myhrvold shared his thoughts on what it takes to be a good inventor at the Bloomberg Top Tech Conferencediscussing the current invention environment and offering insight into what he looks for before investing in technologies like artificial intelligence. 

Global Good won the WGHA’s Pioneers of Global Health ‘Outstanding Organization’ Award and the USPTO Patents for Humanity Award for its invention of Arktek™, which is helping to save lives in countries with the lowest immunization rates in the world.

The Invention Science Fund partnered with the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Cluster (NAMIC) to harness the vast potential of 3D printing technologies in new ways.

IV president and COO Adriane Brown was featured in Seattle Business.

The need to close the patenting gender gap and encourage more women to pursue STEM made received sustained national attention this year, making headlines in U.S. News and World Report, among others. IV also weighed in on the importance of diversity in driving innovation and helped to foster an interest in STEM among girls in the local Seattle community with Expanding your Horizons Network.

IV was a finalist for the Association for Financial Professionals Pinnacle Award, an annual award recognizing the leading finance groups for innovation, collaboration and results.

Global Good worked with Worthington Industries and the Indian Oil Corporation to launch its AI Shield in Tanzania and India, respectively. The technology helps cattle and dairy farmers by improving artificial insemination conception rates among livestock.

Inspiration through Invention

Kymeta CEO and president Nathan Kundtz wants to use metamaterials to change the world. He spoke with Puget Sound Business Journal to talk about bringing “a high-speed internet connection to anything that moves.”

Robert Fischell, inventor of the rechargeable pacemaker and the implantable insulin pump, shared a look into his problem-solving approach and creative process.

In these TED talks, seven young inventors tell stories of how they are finding innovative approaches to world health problems like Alzheimer’s disease, cancer and asthma.

President Obama awarded 21 Americans who have “helped push America forward” with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Of the 21 recipients, five have made contributions in tech and three of those are women.

Washington state ranked top in the nation for technology. Bonus: The article featured an image from IV’s very own IV Lab.

Imaging scientist and social impact inventor Ramesh Raskar won the Lemelson-MIT Prize for his Femto-photography work that is, quite literally, impacting how we see the world.

The new innovation hub at the University of Washington is fostering the next generation of inventors, scientists and entrepreneurs and making an impact in the Seattle community.

Want to catch all the 2017 invention news as its happening? Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on Twitter

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Patents for Humanity: Global Good’s Passive Vaccine Storage Device, Arktek, wins USPTO Award

Through its Patents for Humanity Award, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) illuminates stories of technologies that are making real change in the world for those most in need. This year, one of those stories is ours to tell. 

In the developing world, more than 1.5 million children under the age of five die each year from vaccine-preventable diseases. Seven years ago, the Global Good team set out to change this. The team had a vision to help deliver vaccines to rural areas where vaccines are often critical, and power is scarce or nonexistent. 

Through the invention of Arktek™ – a device which can keep vaccines cool for more than a month with no power – inventors, rocket scientists, industrial engineers and health experts worked together to turn this vision into a reality. The technology has been transformative for countries with the lowest immunization rates in the world including Ghana, Ethiopia, Senegal and Nigeria.
 

Since the first U.S. patent was issued in 1790, patents have provided the momentum driving the developed world into each era of technological progress. In the modern invention landscape, the Global Good team draws on resources, such as patents, that are often reserved for commercial pursuits in the developed world to lift up those living in our world’s most impoverished countries.  

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Photo Essay: Vaccine Access in Ethiopia’s Remote Danakil Desert

At Global Good, we draw on the power of invention to solve some of humanity’s toughest problems. Tonight, at Washington Global Health Alliance’s Pioneers of Global Health Awards Dinner, we’ll gather with other local development organizations to celebrate the tireless efforts of those in our own community who contribute to better health around the world. By inventing, developing and deploying commercially-viable technologies, we hope to advance their efforts.

Learn about one of these technologies and how it is helping a community in Ethiopia’s remote Danakil Desert to access vaccines. 

Last summer a team from Global Good returned to a remote health post in northeastern Ethiopia to observe how one of our products – the Arktek™ – is helping people in the region to access vaccines.           

Among others, the clinic serves a community of Afar nomadic herders.

Traditionally pastoralists, the Afar move from place to place in search of good grazing land for their goats, cattle and camels.

They primarily live in the Danakil Desert in northeast Ethiopia. Located hundreds of feet below sea level, the Danakil is one of the lowest and hottest places on earth. 

Many in the community we visited live in huts like the one pictured above.

The nearest hospital is a three-day walk away across a harsh and unforgiving landscape. The community’s only regular access to health care is this small rural clinic run by Ethiopia’s Ministry of Health in partnership with UNICEF.

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