From technology revolutionizing how we evaluate big data to an education program for bright young students, Stanford’s Invention Hall of Fame recently welcomed six new inductees, growing in membership by nearly a quarter.
Each new technology has earned more than $5 million in royalties for Stanford. It’s a high bar for such early-stage inventions, developed by Stanford faculty, staff and students, to meet. To date, the Invention Hall of Fame includes only 23 technologies (including the new inductees) out of about 10,000 technology disclosures. But Katharine Ku, executive director of the Office of Technology Licensing, which manages intellectual property assets developed at Stanford, noted that the greatest influence of these diverse inventions may be yet to come.
“The technologies’ impact is only seen years later – and it’s not always based on royalties,” Ku said. For example, Stanford alumni Larry Page and Sergey Brin’s PageRank algorithm, the hypertext-searching algorithm that would form the basis of Google, is among the Invention Hall of Fame’s technologies. So is a process to generate functional antibodies, used to produce drugs such as Remicade for rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease, and Synagis to treat a major cause of respiratory illness in young children.
At this year’s induction ceremony in May – the first such event since 2012 – the new inductees and outstanding inventors for 2015 were honored at the Bechtel Conference Center.
The newest members of the Stanford Invention Hall of Fame follow:
• Polaris is a data visualization technology that makes it easier for people to make decisions based on facts and data. It was developed by Pat Hanrahan, professor of computer science and of electrical engineering. Also recognized for their contributions to Polaris were former Stanford graduate students Robert Bosch, Christopher Stolte and Diane Tang; Mendel Rosenblum, professor of computer science and of electrical engineering; and John Gerth, system software developer in computer science.
Because the software is like a visual spreadsheet for data, Hanrahan said, it has a wide range of uses. “Hospitals use it to improve patient care, teachers use it to understand how their students are doing and humanitarian organizations use it to understand how best to distribute funds and supplies,” he noted. The technology was licensed to Tableau Software, a company that Hanrahan co-founded with Stolte, a doctoral student in computer science, and Christian Chabot, a graduate of Stanford Graduate School of Business.
• A tool to find bugs in large software systems – preventing issues such as software crashes, instability and security vulnerabilities – is another new inductee. Its inventors, Dawson Engler, associate professor of computer science and of electrical engineering, and then-graduate students Benjamin Chelf, Andy Chou and Seth Hallem, co-founded a startup, Coverity, to commercialize the technology in 2003.
As a public service to improve common infrastructure, Coverity also regularly runs scans on almost 5,000 open-source software projects and maintains an open database of the bugs. The company was purchased by global software company Synopsys in 2014.
• A new type of fluorescent molecule called Cy7 – allophycocyanin conjugates serve as a unique tag for monoclonal antibodies, contributing to the capacity for complexity in laboratory experiments. The invention is the work of Mario Roederer, a former postdoctoral researcher at Stanford, now a senior investigator at the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institutes of Health. Roederer notes that the fluorescent tag was licensed by reagent manufacturers.
• A tool for ranking nodes in large directed graphs was among the recently invented technologies to be licensed most quickly, Ku said. The technology, which advances Google’s original PageRank algorithm for web search rankings, is a suite of algorithms for personalizing and contextualizing web search results.
Then-Stanford graduate students Taher Haveliwala, Glen Jeh and Sep Kamvar, as well as the late Gene Golub, professor of computer science, developed the technology. Google is the current licensee, after acquiring Kaltix, the company created by Haveliwala, Jeh and Kamvar, based on their invention.
• The Education Program for Gifted Youth (EPGY) was created by the late Patrick Suppes, a professor of philosophy. Suppes initially received funding from the National Science Foundation to develop a computer-based calculus course, and the program later grew, with funding from the Sloan Foundation and the Atlantic Philanthropic Society, to include a K-12 math program and courses in several other areas including writing. Many of these courses were licensed to Redbird Advanced Learning in 2013.
The original goal of EPGY was to develop advanced courses for bright students who didn’t have access to such educational opportunities. These computer-based courses were originally delivered on floppy disks, later on CD-ROM, and eventually became web-based. Rafe Mazzeo, professor of mathematics and faculty director of Stanford Pre-Collegiate Studies, the program that grew out of EPGY, accepted the award for the EPGY team.
• Developed by faculty and staff at the Stanford Center for Assessment, Learning and Equity (SCALE), the edTPA teaching performance assessment is now required as an evaluation of “readiness to teach” for teacher candidates completing licensure programs in 13 states. As one teacher educator commented, “We now have a common set of expectations and a common language for talking about effective practice for beginning teachers and actionable data to improve our programs.”
All edTPA income received by SCALE supports ongoing development, implementation support and continuing research. Linda Darling-Hammond, professor emerita of education and director of the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education, accepted the award on behalf of the team.
At this year’s event, the Office of Technology Licensing also recognized 27 new prolific inventors who have invented at least seven technologies that, in aggregate, have generated over $500,000.