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Addressing emerging themes in life science IP

Marks & Clerk’s intellectual property (IP) summit in Cambridge on 16 October brought together dynamic businesses and entrepreneurs from across Cambridge’s vibrant life sciences and technology sectors. Cambridge remains a global innovation hub with the ability to produce world-class enterprises. With the life sciences sector alone worth an estimated £70 billion annually to UK plc however, protecting this innovation is critical. This is where intellectual property comes in.

Life science companies continue to innovate and the race to find solutions to the healthcare challenges of our time is reflected in the European Patent Office’s most recent annual report from earlier in 2018, which revealed that patent filings in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical sectors grew by 25.3% and 15.7%, respectively, over 2017.

Over the course of the day, a number of themes could be seen across the presentations and panel sessions.

A key theme was one of transition within the IP system. Jeremiah Frueauf and Nirav Desai from US law firm Sterne Kessler, Goldstein & Fox, discussed the significant changes to the US patent system over the last decade and the evolving approaches taken to secure valuable US protection. Examples include latest best practice in challenging inventive step objections, and current practices in claiming antibodies. Philip Martin (Marks & Clerk) and Nicolas Douarche (European Patent Office) discussed the impact of AI on business and how patent offices are seeking to apply existing patentability approaches to help give companies more certainty in their IP strategies. A panel discussion with Chris Winter (Medimmune), Guy Nash (Mundipharma), Pia Bjork (European Patent Office) and Paul Thomas (Ipswich Waterfront Innovation Centre) explored the impact of data on patentability, including the hot topic of whether patent offices apply a consistent approach to the weight they place on data generated for the patent versus data in prior art documents. A good example of this occurs with clinical trials, and whether early publications on ClinicalTrials.gov limit companies’ ability to obtain key follow-on IP based on further data which only becomes apparent once the trial has completed, for example for dosages or dosage regimens.

A second theme was the need for efficient processes. Chris Davie (Mundipharma) set out a targeted approach to due diligence, emphasising the need to control the process but to adopt a flexible approach tailored to the size and value of the transaction. During a Q&A session with the EPO, various best practices were explored to facilitate efficient handling of patent applications.

A third theme was the role of IP within an overall commercial strategy. A highlight of the day was Professor Sir Richard Friend (University of Cambridge) describing the role of IP in building businesses from discovery through to marketed products, noting the critical need to secure key patent protection early to enable early-stage investment. Oliver Woolley (Envestors LLP) explored what investors look for and, finally, in a panel discussion Ally McGhee (F-Star) described the innovative asset-centric vehicle structure employed by F-Star to create a flexible corporate structure.

The depth of experience of both speakers and attendees was a vivid confirmation of the robust Cambridge life science cluster, and we look forward to bringing the sector together again in a future summit. 

Written by intellectual property firm Marks & Clerk.

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Marks & Clerk
Written By

Marks & Clerk is one of the UK and Europe’s largest Patent and Trade Mark Attorney firms, with offices across eight UK locations and nine international locations covering the EU, Asia and Canada. A global network with more than 800 people worldwide, it advises clients in a full range of sectors and in all aspects of intellectual property – patents, trade marks, designs and copyright. The firm’s expert team offer a full spectrum of IP services ranging from filing and prosecution, to litigation and strategy.


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