Celebrating LGBTQ+ Inventors and Entrepreneurs
This month, the U.S. Department of Commerce is celebrating the LGBTQ+ community and paying tribute to the many LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs and innovators who help fulfill the promise of America for all. Below we share the stories of a few leaders in the community and ways in which our agencies are advancing inclusive innovation for the betterment of society.
Rothblatt, left, and the team at United Therapeutics’ Organ Manufacturing Group in Manchester, N.H., holding a lung they are able to 3D-print from human collagen fiber grown in genetically modified tobacco plants with the help of Texas A&M University (Photo Courtesy of United Therapeutics).
Dr. Martine Rothblatt is an entrepreneur, innovator, lawyer, author, movie producer, and social activist. Faced with daunting challenges throughout her life, Rothblatt learned to push past the idea of the insurmountable. Her long list of accomplishments includes creating and commercializing satellite radio, founding a biotechnology company that seeks to provide an unlimited supply of transplantable organs, setting world records for electric flight, becoming a leading advocate for transgender rights, and delving deep into the future of artificial intelligence (AI) with her work on digital immortality. Rothblatt holds over 80 patents. Learn more in “Persistence is omnipotent,” the USPTO’s Journeys of Innovation story about Rothblatt.
Bilenko examines a prototype of Dr. Brainlove, an interactive art car modeled on scans of her own brain. (Photo courtesy of Asako Miyakawa)
Scientist Natalia Bilenko develops AI tools that are transparent and usable for anyone. An accomplished inventor, she was named on five patents by age 37. At medical device company Caption Health, she works on employing AI to make ultrasound scanners easier to use. The company’s cutting-edge AI-guided scanner was named one of the “100 Best Inventions of 2021” by Time Magazine. The technology is designed to catch heart problems early and could be particularly helpful for people who live in rural areas far away from experienced cardiologists and ultrasound technicians. Bilenko, whose interests extend to the intersection of AI and art, co-created the world's first interactive exhibit to use real-time brain activity, called Cognitive Technologies, for the San Francisco Exploratorium. As a visible role model in the AI community and an organizer of Queer in AI, Bilenko works to ensure the field welcomes ideas and perspectives from all scientists. Learn more in the USPTO’s Journeys of Innovation story on Bilenko, “Artificial intelligence for all.”
The Department of Commerce not only celebrates these entrepreneurs, but also works to support others like them. The USPTO holds a number of events that help advance equity in innovation, including this month’s popular Proud in Innovation series, and has launched new resources such as our inclusive innovation page. These programs and events inspire and encourage inventors and entrepreneurs from all backgrounds to develop their ideas and seek intellectual property protection for them to help enact real change and improve our world.
Working with Thrive West Central, the EDA recently capitalized a Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) that will provide critical gap financing to LGBTQ+ and other minority-owned small businesses. Among its initiatives, the Intentional Outreach Network undertakes dedicated outreach to the LGBTQ+ community to empower, guide, promote, enhance, connect, and grow LGBTQ+ business leaders and entrepreneurs. Prospective borrowers from underserved populations — including the LGBTQ+ community — or those that commit to employing individuals from these communities, will be prioritized for loans.
Expanding opportunity and creating an economy that works for all Americans is central to the Department of Commerce’s mission and strategic plan. The Economic and Development Administration and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office are proud to join all Commerce bureaus in celebrating the LGBTQ+ community and recognizing their significant contributions to our nation’s economy, competitiveness, and growth.
Please visit USPTO’s inventor and entrepreneur resources page to learn more about protecting intellectual property. Additional information about EDA’s Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) program is available at its website.