Sen. Maria Cantwell and Nathan Myhrvold Talk Statewide Innovation at Intellectual Ventures Lab Ceremony

5/26/09Follow @gthuang

It’s not every day you get to watch a U.S. senator swallow a swirling ball of liquid nitrogen-cooled foam (yuzu-flavored, no less). Talk about a palate cleanser.

That was just one stop along a rather surreal press tour and ribbon-cutting ceremony this morning at the Intellectual Ventures Laboratory in Bellevue, WA, as Sen. Maria Cantwell got a personal tour of the lab from company co-founder and chief executive Nathan Myhrvold. “The point of the lab is to do prototyping and do research around our inventions,” Myhrvold said. “We never know exactly what we’ll need, so we have to have a lot of capabilities.”

(Among these is a unique way of doing ribbon-cutting, as you’ll see on the next page. All photos courtesy of McKenzie Funk.)

The wide range of capabilities at Intellectual Ventures was on display in a series of lab demos. The tour included glimpses of an expansive cooking-science station (site of the palate cleanser) and setups for doing epidemiological computer modeling of malaria outbreaks; diagnosing malaria by laser light (instead of a blood sample); designing electricity-free vaccine containers that can withstand 105 °F exposure in Africa for six months; and photographing mosquito wingbeats at ultra-high speed (27,000 frames per second). Then came the coup de grace—bug-zapping lasers that work as a “photonic fence” against mosquitoes and agricultural pests (the live-demo lasers were non-lethal and just for show, shooting 50 bugs per second). OK, maybe not the most practical technology yet, but it’s certainly a striking demo.

The lab hasn’t changed much since I saw it last summer; it still has about 30 full-time employees. But overall, Intellectual Ventures has grown to more than 500 staff members, up from 400-some employees earlier this year. The company has also leased space across the street from the lab for a new supercomputing center, presumably to help its researchers perform large computer simulations for epidemiology studies and other complex problems.

Sen. Cantwell, a Democrat who’s midway through her second term for Washington state, asked Myhrvold what Intellectual Ventures is doing for this state’s economy. “We’re going to try to keep … Next Page »

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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  • ryan

    Intellectual Ventures are patent trolls and Maria Cantwell is their shill. Take a look at what she did with section 18 of the recent patent reform bill. What a disgrace. I’m a Democrat and she lost my vote. Intellectual Ventures doesn’t even make anything.