IDBS Blog | 15th April 2019

Why the Success of R&D Depends on IP

Without heavy investment in research and development (R&D), the millions of new and innovative medical technologies, drugs and delivery systems developed each year would simply not happen.

When it comes to pharmaceutical discovery and innovative medical technologies, scientists must begin with the end in mind with a clear focus on R&D IP, or intellectual property. Indeed, a competitive landscape, urgency to accelerate treatment to patients and massive investment underscore the importance of IP as a factor in R&D for novel drugs and existing patents. IP strategy and IP protection are a core competency that will ensure R&D investments are safeguarded from loss, theft and accidental release into the public domain. This has led to the formation of dedicated IP teams to manage the processes and information technology needed to continuously protect intellectual property. But the scope of protecting R&D IP goes beyond what IP teams and IP managers can do from a top-down view – IP teams need discovery scientists to be active IP colleagues in the complex task of R&D IP and patent protection, and that requires a bottom-up IP strategy where IP and r esearch are all on the same IP team. In short, capturing IP assets must be integral to the research process.

In 2018, the UK’s medical funding body – the Medical Research Council – recorded a gross expenditure of £814 million. This figure is itself up by just over seven percent – or £755.5 million – from the previous year. This shows the pivotal role R&D plays in the drug discovery process. But, without focus, the costs for R&D can spiral and have a negative effect on the bottom line.

Any successful R&D program is laser-focused on achieving results, but it is often hard to ensure effective outcomes without teams working towards to the same “North Star” – the end goal. Here, Intellectual Property (IP) may provide the answer.

IP has historically been primarily treated as a concern for legal departments. It is also thought of as something to work on after an invention or innovation has been created through R&D, not before. But, increasingly, there is a good argument for researchers to focus on IP in the R&D strategy from the outset.

Deploying an IP strategy from the outset creates a win-win situation. It can be used as a tool to sharpen focus and improve the quality of the research – and help ensure the end result can quickly be patented. It also means that R&D investment is protected as existing patents, and patent applications are already identified before commencing research. But before jumping into an IP strategy, researchers must take two steps:

  1. Identify which IP protection is the most suitable: Researchers need to ask what requires protection. For example, will the eventual product have a distinctive appearance or design function? Then registering the design right is the best approach.
  2. Assess the patent landscape: Before embarking on an R&D program, researchers must identify pre-existing patents or patent applications that may affect the commercialization of their own product. This knowledge will also help teams look at how they should differentiate their product from the start, thus again helping to sharpen the R&D focus.

When starting an IP-driven R&D program, researches must also be careful to protect confidentiality. Any disclosure of information pertaining to the product can have dire consequences on the eventual commercial prospect, and even make patent applications invalid.

A quick time-to-market and a good return on investment from any R&D program is essential for any drug developer – especially those in a highly crowded marketplace. Once a team has identified its end goal, they can then quickly work towards that, ensuring that precious R&D budgets are always maximized and deliver return on investment.

Combining R&D with IP delivers better results for the drug developer and the end user alike – protecting investments while ensuring better outcomes. It’s time researchers put it to the test.

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