Amid Wave of Bioinspiration, San Diego Zoo Creates Innovation Center

8/29/12Follow @bvbigelow

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incubator also would help to seed the innovation economy in San Diego and elsewhere. The zoo offers plenty of examples, including:

Mirasol display technology under development since the mid-1990s, and now under auspices of San Diego-based Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM), generates colors for mobile phone displays and e-book readers by mimicking the interference of reflected light by microscopic scales on the iridescent surface of the morpho butterfly’s wings.


—In the life sciences, San Diego’s Biomatrica has developed DNA and RNA preservation technology based on anhydrobiosis, a dehydration process that occurs in  nature with brine shrimp and other organisms.

WhalePower, a Toronto-based wind power company, designed its turbine blades based on the tubercles (bumps) on the fins of humpback whales. Co-founder and biologist Frank Fish of West Chester, PA, determined that the bumps reduce drag, enabling the blades to turn at lower wind speeds.

Larry Stambaugh

To head its new biomimicry center, the zoo named Larry Stambaugh, 65, a local corporate leader who led San Diego-based Maxim Pharmaceuticals, a once-prominent drug developer that was sold amid some acrimony at the end of 2005.

Stambaugh, who told me he’s spent years in-licensing and out-licensing technologies, says the incubator’s prime directive is moving bio-inspired innovations toward commercialization.

“Some ideas would be advanced to a working model or proof of principle, and then licensed,” Stambaugh says. “Sometimes, companies would come to us and we’ll jointly develop the idea. We have the know-how among our scientists at the zoo.”

Stambaugh says the goal is to make the process of innovation development work quicker, faster, and better. “One of the most profound … Next Page »

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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  • Christine

    I just read the article in the UT today(9/3/12) about the biomimitry center. I could not help but think of homeopathy and how this has used nature’s plants and animals to develop remedies for illnesses for 300 years! I hope that this field will be intensely studied as part of the center.
    What a wonderful way to expand upon Hahnemann’s work to help with the diseases we face today.
    There are several local people who practice different forms of homeopathy that would be a great resource for this porject