Anopheles mosquitoes are carriers for the malaria parasite. (CDC Photo / James Gathany) It’s at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a time to focus on the global campaign to eradicate malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases. And if delving into the nuts and bolts of developing an effective malaria vaccine doesn’t grab you, how about adding a “Star Trek” angle? That’s exactly what Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is doing in . When I was younger, I loved science fiction. The author I read the most was Robert Heinlein (“The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress” was a favorite). — Bill Gates (@BillGates) As a teenager, I remember watching an episode of the original Star Trek where the bad guy is a shapeshifter who turns himself into a second Captain Kirk. — Bill Gates (@BillGates) There’s an epic scene at the end where Spock has to figure out which one is the impostor. — Bill Gates (@BillGates) Shapeshifters are not just the stuff of science fiction, though. We have them right here on earth. — Bill Gates (@BillGates) To kick off , I wrote about the world’s deadliest shapeshifter (and what scientists are learning about how to beat it). — Bill Gates (@BillGates) How did Gates go from science fiction to epidemiological fact? Even Mr. Spock would find the logical progression fascinating. The malaria virus is transmitted by a tiny parasite that mosquitoes carry from host to host as they go about their bloodsucking ways. It’d be nice to have a vaccine that can train your immune system to recognize the parasite and fight it off before the virus takes hold of its victim. Unfortunately, the parasite has developed its own defense against that strategy. Gates noted that the parasite is designed to shuffle up to 60 different proteins to present a new molecular “shape” to your immune system every few days. That throws off the mechanism that makes it possible for the immune system to recognize and attack an invader. This is why it’s so hard to come up with an effective vaccine. Gates compared the challenge to a scene from a “Star Trek” episode titled in which Spock has to decide which of two identical-looking Captain Kirks is actually a deranged shapeshifter. Spock could just stand by and wait for the right moment while the two Kirks duked it out, but Gates said it’s tougher to fight real-life shapeshifters: “You might think we could create a vaccine that simply recognizes all the different shapes of the parasite. Unfortunately, that’s not practical. The only vaccine we have ever done that with is for a type of pneumonia. It is very expensive to manufacture and covers only a dozen shapes or so, versus the 60 shapes in one malaria infection and the many hundreds across all malaria parasites worldwide. “The malaria community (including our foundation) has been working for years on a vaccine to protect you in stage 1, before the infection takes hold. This vaccine, called RTS,S, teaches your immune system to hunt for a bit of protein that is always on the surface of the parasite. Unfortunately, the protection provided by RTS,S is not strong enough for long enough to help us make real headway toward eradication. And there are other forms of protection (such as bednets and insecticides) that are more cost-effective for saving lives.” So is it futile to look for a vaccine that’s effective enough and inexpensive enough to shut down the shapeshifters? Gates said advances in biotech are keeping hope alive: “For example, scientists are working on new approaches that we hope will trigger the immune system to create long-lived, antibody-generating cells. Another promising idea is to create synthetic antibodies rather than trying to get your immune system to make natural ones. These have revolutionized the treatment of cancer and inflammatory disease, and they could do the same for infectious diseases like malaria.” Gates said investments in bednets and other non-vaccine strategies for prevention and treatment have already reduced malaria deaths by 42 percent since 2000. His foundation also backs research into . “When I see how far we have come and how much we have learned, I am as optimistic as ever that we can beat this clever shapeshifter,” Gates wrote. Check out the Gates Foundation’s website to get an , and keep an eye on Gates Notes for, including a of from past years.
Russell Wilson on the homepage of the Limitless Minds website. (ThinkBig-GoFar.com Image) We already know Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has “no time to sleep.” It looks like his latest company will shed some light on that mindset. Wilson, a busy entrepreneur when he’s not on the football field, launched another venture on Tuesday in the form of , a business coaching consultancy that looks to tap the Super Bowl champ’s competitive thinking and mental conditioning and bring it all into the corporate world. GeekWire about the plans for the business last summer. The startup was founded by Wilson, mental-conditioning coach and Trevor Moawad, business partner DJ Eidson, and Wilson’s brother, Harry Wilson. The goal is to help organizations develop the skills to handle adversity under pressure, in competitive environments. “Mental conditioning and mindset training have been a critical part of my performance on the field throughout my career,” Wilson said in a news release. “Trevor is the best in the world at developing these skills for athletes and coaches. Throughout our relationship, we realized that the skills we work on can benefit many more people. I’m thrilled to pair Trevor’s expertise with Harry and DJ’s business acumen to help more people identify and develop these skills within themselves.” The Limitless Minds founders, from left: Harry Wilson, president; DJ Eidson, chief marketing officer; Russell Wilson, chairman; and Trevor Moawad, CEO. (Limitless Minds Photo) Wilson has worked with Moawad since meeting him just before the NFL Draft in 2012. Moawad’s centers around themes including visualization (psychologically experiencing a situation), understanding the power of your voice, focusing on one thought, and , or the idea that overly positive or negative thoughts aren’t beneficial to an optimal mindset. “The ability to develop a consistent mentality is universal. Period. It will remain a core tenant to success in any field, whether it happens by accident or with intentionality,” Moawad said. The startup is another in a list of attempts by Wilson to establish himself as a force among NFL entrepreneurs. His previous Seattle-based celebrity media company TraceMe pivoted to become , a sports prediction app. His resume also includes , his production company, and , a high-end fashion retailer.
Did you spend years in your parents’ basement playing ping pong? Or foosball? Or Catan? If so, join the GeekWire team and 2,000 Seattle area geeks on March 7th for the annual — the most unique and fun event on the Seattle tech calendar. Presented by First Tech Federal Credit Union, the Bash is now open to geeks of all ages. Grab tickets , and join the GeekWire team for robotics, video games, virtual reality, sumo wrestling and a zipline. A limited number of spots in the ping pong and foosball tournaments are available . The GeekWire Bash is a great team building activity whether strategizing over tabletop games, soaring through the air on the zipline or cheering each other on in other offbeat activities. Group tickets available. Some of this year’s featured activities: —Get a sumo face ready and try to not hit the mat, thanks to sumo sponsor NTT .—Bring kids to explore the new featuring STEM-oriented activities.—Pop into the open play ping pong area.—DJ Morgan of KEXP will keep the energy high from the First Tech DJ Booth.—Tabletop gaming is back with partners at Meeples Games providing intro Magic lessons and sharing their mobile game library.—Dodgeball meets laser tag in a virtual world: Be one of the first to experience multi-player arena VR at the VRcade by Virtual Sports.—Watch more than 200 kids in 4th to 8th grades compete with their autonomous robots in the first annual ! Here are more highlights from the GeekWire Calendar: : A full-day celebration of the best science fiction and fantasy films of the past year at the SIFF Cinema Egyptian in Seattle; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m Saturday, March 9. Getting women to land and stay in tech jobs continues to be a challenge despite active efforts. is a place where women and men can gather to celebrate women in tech. This year’s theme is “You Can’t Be What You Can’t See” and hopes to bring visibility to women leading successful careers in the technology sector, hopefully leading to more interest among younger women to enter the field. This event is free to the public and takes place from 6 to 8:30 p.m. on March 8. : A presentation from industry leaders in a number of fields at Google in Kirkland; 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday, March 11. : A presentation of techniques about content and even body language in technical interviews at North Seattle College in Seattle; 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday, March 11. : A presentation offering advice for entrepreneurs interested in the Life Sciences at the Agora Conference Center in Seattle; 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday, March 13. : A presentation by Mark Altman author of the two-volume History of Star Trek, takes a look at where the franchise might be headed in the future at the ACT Theater in Seattle; 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, March 14. For more upcoming events, check out the , where you can find meetups, conferences, startup events, and geeky gatherings in the Pacific Northwest and beyond. Organizing an event? .
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson gives a thumbs up at an event at Zillow Group in Seattle. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota) Russell Wilson won’t suit up on Super Bowl Sunday but he’s still staying busy off the field in Atlanta this weekend. The Seahawks star quarterback has been making the rounds all week, jumping from media interviews to sponsor events to high-profile parties before today’s big game. Top of mind for Wilson is , a new sports prediction app that he’s been touting to reporters this week. The free-to-play app debuted a few months ago and offers real cash prize payouts to users who can make the most accurate prediction on. For the Super Bowl, it is offering a $250,000 grand prize to anyone who correctly predicts all 16 questions on the line. They range from specific in-game predictions — which team will have the longest field goal? — to off-the-wall questions such as: What color shirt will Adam Levine be wearing when he takes the stage for his halftime performance? Tally mimics gamification and engagement concepts from HQTrivia, a live mobile game which went viral last year. The app last month expanded beyond sports and ran predictions games for The Golden Globes, The Bachelor, and even President Trump’s national address on immigration. Prizes go to users who rack up the most points, which are awarded on a probability scale — if you predict something with a low chance of happening, you win more points. There’s also a jackpot — $250,000 for the Super Bowl — that goes to people who ace all the predictions. Tally funds the prize payouts, which are issued to winners via PayPal within three days. The company’s CEO, Jason LeeKeenan, said the app is not related to sports betting, which has caught the attention of investors and technologists expecting more legalization across the U.S. after a key Supreme Court last year. “We see this as a really friendly version of fantasy,” he GeekWire in November. Tally is an evolution of TraceMe, a celebrity content app that was the original premise of the company . TraceMe shut down , laying off staff and closing its Los Angeles office as it shifted focus to Tally. TraceMe had aimed to connect celebrities with “superfans” through its app via , community features, and more. But according to LeeKeenan, who now heads up Tally, the company overestimated the addressable market for TraceMe, which a $9 million round last year from investors such as Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, YouTube founder Chad Hurley, Alibaba co-founder Joe Tsai, and Seattle-based Madrona Venture Group. Speaking of Bezos — the Amazon chief is also in Atlanta this weekend. He and Wilson were spotted making a friendly exchange at the NFL Honors awards ceremony Saturday night. Sports reporter Darren Rovell posited that Bezos could be a potential new owner of the Seahawks, whose previous owner Paul Allen . Is Russell Wilson talking with his future owner tonight in Atlanta? Jeff Bezos has made the trip (
Chris Bosh and his wife, Adrienne Bosh, pose for a selfie with an Atlas 5 rocket in advance of today’s Mars InSight launch. (Adrienne Bosh via Twitter) While retired NBA All-Star basketball player Chris Bosh , he and his wife Adrienne are taking a time out to witness the from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Based on their tweets, the Boshs are having a great time and firing up the space crowd as well. More importantly, they’re inspiring their children to reach even higher than a basketball rim: I’m behind the scenes of the launch