NLO Fortify no. 5 2017
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no. 5 | volume 4 | winter 2017


Managing your money smartly

Ann van Geysel is CEO and Founder of Turnstone Communications
and the life sciences platform BioVox.

No one doubts that in the future, an intelligent IP strategy will be essential for you to bring your invention to the patient. The very long and uncertain development process plays an important factor in this. 15 years’ research and development, with expensive clinical trials, is not unusual for the development of a drug. But without IP strategy, you leave the door wide open to opportunists.

Established pharmaceutical companies must have such a strategy, but so must the life sciences inventors in our universities. They therefore receive optimal guidance from the universities’ TTO's Promising innovations are patented early in the process. This is a strategic choice. Good protection is vital to spin off the technology to a company (and to motivate venture capitalists to invest) or to put it on the radar of the bigger players. Without IP, there is no money and therefore no product.

It is estimated that 30% of R&D spending is wasted on duplicate research. Much of this unnecessary expenditure can be avoided by exploring existing literature. Although scientific literature is carefully updated, researchers often forget to consult the patent databases. And that has now proved to be a goldmine! According to the EPO, 80% of current technological knowledge can only be found in patent databases. Because it is a lot easier to file a patent than publish a ‘peer-reviewed’ article. Furthermore, you discover how much progress your competitors have made. And if you lack ideas: many patents - around 85% - are no longer active. So there is a large pool of free inventions!

The first ‘patented drugs’ appeared in the 18th century in England. Drinks with colourful names and often dubious claims. These brews were granted exclusivity from the government, but were usually not officially patented. The compositions were kept a carefully guarded secret and while some of these patented remedies had little or no effect, others proved to be deadly. This was due to the lack of regulation or control of the ingredients. It was only at the end of the 19th century that laws were introduced to oblige manufacturers to reveal the ingredients and to use a more realistic description.

Luckily, those times are far behind us. Today, drugs protect our health and give us a long and good quality life. Every day, numerous innovations improve the health system and new, valuable remedies appear on the market. Thanks to patents and an intelligent IP strategy, financing for research and development is guaranteed. Without this protection, innovation would have no chance. And there is still a lot to invent! We therefore resolutely reject the dubious statement of the chairman of the Patent Office who claimed in 1899 that “Everything that can be invented has been invented”.