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Naveen Jain
Entrepreneur Naveen Jain takes a zero-G airplane flight. (Credit: Naveen Jain / Zero Gravity Corp. via Twitter)

Naveen Jain’s Moon Express is well along in its plans for a lunar mission next year, but the Seattle dot-com entrepreneur is also pursuing “moonshots” here on Earth through his BlueDot venture.

BlueDot, based in Bellevue, Wash., came into the open last November with the goal of turning the discoveries made at research institutions around the country into innovative products. At the time, Jain told GeekWire that the venture’s first technological targets would be charging devices that harvest ambient energy and non-invasive devices that detect pathogens.

Now we’re learning how BlueDot plans to proceed, and how much it will take.

CNBC reports that the venture has brought in $8.3 million in investment, which translates into a valuation of $60 million. And NASA astronaut Scott Parazynski has surfaced as the company’s co-founder and chief technology officer.

That’s an interesting choice: Parazynski is an M.D. who served as John Glenn’s “personal physician” during his history-making space shuttle flight in 1998. After leaving NASA, he took on extreme adventures ranging from an Everest climb to medical service in Antarctica. There’s even a local connection: His parents live in Bellevue.

The venture’s other founders include chief operating officer Deepak Savadatti, who has long experience in the semiconductor industry; and Sony Mordechai, a serial entrepreneur and investor who’s the company’s chief information officer.

BlueDot’s astronaut angle, and Jain’s status as co-founder and chairman of Moon Express, demonstrate that the veteran of the InfoSpace, Intelius and Talentwise is open to further frontiers. That goes not only for space travel, but also for new approaches to tech development.

Jain says that BlueDot is “not an incubator or an accelerator, but an entirely new asset class.” He points out that the federal government spends tens of billions of dollars a year on research and development, but that many of the resulting technologies don’t get commercialized because they’re not quite ready for prime time.

BlueDot’s business model involves licensing technologies developed at a research center, then putting together a management team to create a company around that technology. BlueDot owns the company, while the research center receives royalties as a payback on the government’s investment.

“Our model is simple: If you can find a technology that can help a billion people, there’s no doubt in my mind that you can create a $10 billion company,” Jain told GeekWire.

For instance?

“Imagine a spray that you can spray on a Kleenex, and when you sneeze on it, it will tell you whether you’re sick,” Jain said. The color of that wet tissue could tell you whether you have the sniffles or something more serious.

Other prospects include hand-held MRI-type diagnostic devices, and genetic-engineering strategies to keep mosquitoes from spreading malaria.

“The sort of technology I’m seeing is just mind-blowing,” Jain said.

The way Jain sees it, commercializing those technologies could help billions of people, and make billions of dollars in the process. That may sound ambitious – but that’s what moonshots are all about.

This report was updated at 2:10 p.m. PT April 19 with further comments from Jain.

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