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Cuba, Metamaterials, Silkworms and More: Twelve Must-Read Stories From October

At the GeekWire Summit 2016, Nathan Myhrvold said, “Every great idea starts off as a spark. We live in a society that has been completely technologically transformed by ideas that worked out.” Our favorite links this month tell stories of inventors and inventions that embody that kind of transformation. 

Cuba, Metamaterials, Silkworms and More: Twelve Must-Read Stories From October

Nathan Myhrvold speaks with Alan Boyle and Todd Bishop of Geekwire earlier this month

IV in the News

If you click on the video above, you’ll get a first-hand look at Nathan Myhrvold’s fireside chat with Todd Bishop and Alan Boyle of Geekwire earlier this month. Nathan spoke about the importance of metamaterials, investing in invention and the vast potential for technological innovation to improve the lives of those in need. Bonus – check out these photos from the event.

The Military Times shows how Global Good’s Photonic Fence beats bed nets and bug spray when it comes to keeping troops safe from vector-borne illnesses.

What if you could cordlessly connect your cell phones, TVs and computers to power without interruption? Duke University, the University of Washington and Intellectual Ventures are collaborating on technology that could make it possible.

Seattle Photonics Association announced that it will build on the work of our own Invention Science Fund on retinal imaging technology that can monitor changes in astronauts’ eyes during missions.

GeekWire highlights IV spinout Kymeta as it showcases its flat-panel antenna at the Monaco Yacht Show, delivering internet to 80 yachts at once.

Developing life-saving technology

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How a Seattle Doctor is Taking the Fight Against Breast Cancer Global

Breast cancer is the most common cancer worldwide, with approximately 1.7 million new cases diagnosed each year. It is a disease that does not discriminate based on racial and ethnic groups, experiences or age. With 58 percent of deaths from breast cancer occurring in developing countries, it is also a disease that crosses international lines. In fact, breast cancer is increasing rapidly in the developing world, where cases are often diagnosed in late stages and treatment options are severely limited. 

How a Seattle Doctor is Taking the Fight Against Breast Cancer Global

Photo courtesy of Seattle Cancer Care Alliance

Last week, we introduced you to our Innovating for a Cure series in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Today, we spotlight a pioneering medical oncologist and women’s health advocate with a powerful vision that knows no boundaries.

Dr. Julie Gralow is the director of Breast Medical Oncology at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, and a professor in the oncology division of the University of Washington School of Medicine. She has earned numerous awards for her research, chairing several committees, and participating in expert panels for breast cancer treatment and research as a member of the Southwest Oncology Group.

But Dr. Gralow is perhaps most truly defined not by the awards she earned within labs and clinics, but by her compassion for her patients and her tireless work to empower and educate women around the world on breast cancer detection and treatment. 

Taking the Fight Global

Dr. Gralow has launched an international movement of dedicated experts and volunteers arming women with the resources they need to take control of their health. She recognizes that, for far too many women around the world, fear, or the simple access to knowledge, stands in the way of early detection, treatment and ultimately, a happy ending.

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The FTC PAE Report: One Crucial Finding and Some Useful Statistics – but Also a Missed Opportunity

The FTC has released its long-awaited Patent Assertion Entity (PAE) Activity Report.  It is detailed, comprehensive and quite long – almost 270 pages!  I apologize for the length of this blog posting, but a report five years in the making deserves more than passing attention.

By far the most important finding of the Report – what the FTC describes as its first “Key Finding”[1] – is that not all PAEs are created equal. Instead, the FTC found that there are dramatic and significant differences between “Portfolio PAEs” such as IV, which emphasize licensing and high-value patents, and other types of litigation-oriented PAEs, which often draw criticism and negative marketplace scrutiny. 

The Report is disappointing in many respects – for example, it offers legislative recommendations not supported by the evidence in the report, and it misses a key opportunity to analyze the fundamental issue of how to value the mission and impact of PAEs.  But overall the in-depth analysis of the different models of PAE should provide useful insights in the ongoing discussions of patent policy.

Crucially, the Report highlights a significant flaw in virtually all prior academic studies in this field.  It observes, accurately, that most prior studies of PAE activity “have focused on publicly observable litigation behavior and relied on publicly available litigation data.”  And it notes that relying on only public data conceals key information that is required for a “deeper understanding of PAE business models,” such as “their confidential... licensing terms and data.” [2]  As is noted in the study, for PAEs such as IV, which reach negotiated licensing agreements far more often than they litigate, this information is critical to any well-founded analysis of the market impacts of its business model.  This Report attempts to gather that essential information and as a result is able to make a valuable contribution to the ongoing policy debate in this area. 

As noted, the Report draws an important distinction, supported by extensive analysis and evidence, between two very different modes of PAEs.  On the one hand, the Report recognizes what it calls “Portfolio PAEs” – firms like IV, which focus their efforts on investment, IP innovation and development, and wide-scale licensing of high-value patents to further develop significant technologies. (Indeed, the Report at various points notes the similarities between the strategies and business methods of Portfolio PAEs and those of other Non-Practicing Entities (NPEs) and of manufacturing firms).  In contrast, while the Report goes out of its way to eschew the term “patent troll,”[3]  it also draws a clear distinction between the methods and approach of high-value Portfolio PAEs with the strategies and approach of what the Report calls “Litigation PAEs” – PAEs that, according the findings of the Report, focus their efforts on low-value patent settlements that are generally consistent with nuisance settlements and appear driven by the interest of defendants in avoiding litigation costs.  The collection of hard data and statistical evidence and the FTC analysis of the clear differences between these two very different business models is an important and compelling aspect of the Report, and it alone makes the Report worth reading. 

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Innovating for a Cure — Dr. Mary-Claire King: Pioneering Advocate and Geneticist

Affecting one in eight women in the United States, the impact of breast cancer touches nearly everyone. In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Intellectual Ventures is celebrating two visionaries in the Seattle area whose ideas about what the future holds in the fight against breast cancer is changing lives. These pioneering scientists envision a world free from the disease that takes more than 40,800 lives per year in the U.S. alone, and through their innovation and determination, are turning their vision into reality.

Innovating for a Cure — Dr. Mary-Claire King: Pioneering Advocate and Geneticist

Mary-Claire King and President Barack Obama at the White House during the medal ceremony. Photo courtesy of the National Science and Technology Medals Foundation and Ryan K. Morris.

A geneticist and professor of Genome Sciences and Medicine at the University of Washington, Dr. Mary-Claire King is known worldwide for her groundbreaking gene work related to human conditions such as HIV, lupus, inherited deafness, and also breast and ovarian cancer. Dr. King discovered her true passion for genetics in graduate school, where she eventually combined her innovative vision in the field of genetics with statistics and evolutionary biology to drive her work to the war on cancer. This combination led Dr. King to the assumption that certain cancers, like breast cancer, might be genetically linked mutations and not caused by viruses.

Dr. King’s relentless pursuit for answers and advocacy for women’s health lead to the breakthrough discovery of the “breast cancer gene,” proving that breast cancer is hereditary in some families. This work has revolutionized diagnosis and treatment, proving that genetics and complex human disease can have a relationship, saving lives and empowering women.

Science for Human Rights

A passionate advocate for social justice, Dr. King has dedicated her life and science acumen to improving lives worldwide. Not always popular at the time, Dr. King’s contributions to breast cancer research were driven by the need for women to be equipped with the genetic information to make critical health decisions for themselves and their families.

Read the full story »

Nathan Myhrvold at GeekWire Summit 2016

Intellectual Ventures founder and CEO Nathan Myhrvold joined journalists Tom Bishop and Alan Boyle last week for a “fireside chat” at the 2016 GeekWire Summit. The conference brought together more than 800 thought leaders to explore technological advancements and the future of innovation. 

Nathan Myhrvold at GeekWire Summit 2016

With hundreds of leading technology experts in attendance – from top executives at companies like Expedia and Microsoft, to a former NFL wide receiver – the conference highlighted a diverse set of visionaries striving to transform the world through new ideas.  

Although covering a wide range of topics, Nathan touched on the importance of metamaterials, investing in invention, and the vast potential for technological innovation to improve the lives of those in need. Nathan illustrated how IV’s business model has led to numerous breakthrough spinout companies, focusing specifically on the newest addition to the list, Xinova.

Here are some of our favorite quotable moments from Nathan’s remarks:

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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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How the Road Less Traveled Led to Blue Jeans

Blue jeans have become an integral part of the clothing industry and our culture. They are fundamental, timeless and just plain ordinary. Yet, as Nathan Myhrvold points out in an interview with Bloomberg Advantage, the creation of blue jeans was not so ordinary. The man behind the jeans, Levi Strauss, a German-born émigré to the United States, developed the idea by seizing an opportunity that no one else had thought to pursue. 

How the Road Less Traveled Led to Blue Jeans

Originally based with his family in New York City, Strauss became one of the many Americans to travel west and take advantage of the gold rush. After arriving in San Francisco, Strauss set up shop to continue the dry goods establishment that his brothers started. In addition to the shop, Strauss had another idea in mind. He wanted to make canvas tents for the forty-niners. However, those who arrived before him had a similar idea and built buildings that eliminated the need for tents.

It was then that Strauss found an original way to capitalize on the gold rush that this time, no one else had thought of – pants that would withstand the rugged conditions of a forty-niner’s lifestyle. As Myhrvold describes it, “[Strauss] wound up making blue jeans and created this gigantic fortune because the obvious opportunities were already taken.”

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The U.S. May Lead the World in Invention, but There’s More We Need to Do

Decades of research demonstrate that diversity is a key driving force for innovation, fostering creativity and creating an environment where “outside the box” ideas can be heard. Yet, statistics show a harsh reality of missed opportunity: diversity in invention is seriously lacking for both women and minorities, today and throughout history.

The U.S. May Lead the World in Invention, but There’s More We Need to Do

A recent report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research found that more than 81 percent of patents include no women inventors. Unless real changes happen soon, it will likely take until 2092 for women inventors to reach gender equity in patenting. The report also found that women are particularly marginalized in patent-intensive STEM fields, where they were awarded only 20 percent of computer science degrees and 19 percent of engineering degrees in 2010.

Unfortunately, the industry’s lack of representation does not end with women. The Information, Technology and Innovation Foundation found that minorities make up a mere 8 percent of U.S.-born innovators. African Americans, despite comprising 13 percent of the native-born population, represent just half a percent of U.S.-born innovators.

As a global inventions company, we’re no stranger to these challenges—and we actively do what we can to encourage women and minorities to pursue STEM-intensive fields and achieve their invention goals. Our president and COO Adriane Brown speaks regularly on the topic, and our community relations program supports organizations like Expanding Your Horizons that encourage early interest in technology.

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News You Can Use: Don’t Just Think Big, Think Different

As Senior Vice President of Global Good and Research Maurizio Vecchione remarks, “innovation requires looking at a problem from a new perspective.” Our favorite links this month tell stories of outside-the-box thinkers — from students and scientists to mathematicians during the space race and even a 19th-century English noblewoman — whose unique outlooks on complex problems led to life-changing solutions.

News You Can Use: Don’t Just Think Big, Think Different

Problem Solving to Improve Lives

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

“Hidden Figures” tells the story of African American women mathematicians who conquered complex math for the space race. Don’t miss this September must-read.

A 16-year-old is working on bringing the gift of sound to more people through his invention of a device that could make hearing aids more affordable.

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.

IV in the News

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Our People: Adam Akullian

Adam Akullian is a postdoctoral researcher with Intellectual Ventures’ Institute for Disease Modeling (IDM). A National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship recipient, Adam is currently focused on mathematical and epidemiological modeling of HIV in sub-Saharan Africa, with the goal of informing effective public health interventions. We met with Adam recently to discuss what brought him to IDM, his hopes for the future, and how collecting snails in China convinced him to pursue a Ph.D. in Epidemiology.  

Our People: Adam Akullian

What are you currently working on at IDM?

I am closing in on my first year of work with the HIV team at IDM, having recently received my Ph.D. in Epidemiology from the University of Washington. My background is in infectious disease epidemiology and geo-spatial analysis. At IDM, I’m helping the team gather data from regions of sub-Saharan Africa with the highest HIV burden and incidence. We’re using a mathematical model developed by my colleagues at IDM to simulate the potential impact of different interventions on the HIV epidemic. For example, we might ask, would a behavioral invention (like promoting condom use) or a biomedical intervention (like expanding access to antiretroviral therapy or increasing uptake of Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision (VMMC)) prevent the most new infections? And, which groups should we target for these interventions?

How did you decide to pursue epidemiology?

I started out in the natural sciences at Brown University and got a job through UC Berkeley collecting snails in China. These tiny snails live in the ditches of rice farming villages in rural communities and transmit Schistosomiasis, a parasitic disease in humans that infects millions of people globally. It was a disease ecology project to understand how environmental change might expand the geographic habitat of the snail population and how that would drive disease spread in the region.

It was at that intersection of ecology, infectious disease, and geography that I really found a passion for public health and saw epidemiology as almost a natural fit for me. Once I completed my Ph.D., IDM was a great opportunity for me because it values multidisciplinary thinking.

What advice would you give someone who is considering a career in the sciences or specifically public health?

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Research from IV, @DukeU & @uwengineering could bring wireless charging stations to your living room:

Oct 26

The 13 year old who's America's top young scientist with her invention of $5 eco-friendly energy device 📻……

Oct 25

Global Good's Mazzi incl. as one of the '16 brilliant innovations tacking poverty around the world' via @mashable

Oct 25