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Scientific Discovery to Product Development: The Importance of Intellectual Property

With recent efforts to advance translational research and the “bench to bedside” model both research and the healthcare industry have attempted to bridge the gap between scientific discovery and product development. The ultimate goal of clinical research is to benefit the patient; product development is a key step in the translational process so that research reaches the patient.

One of the most important parts of product development is protecting your discovery. Intellectual property (IP) plays a vital role in protecting one’s innovations and is essential to bringing products to market. In the healthcare industry there are three stakeholders who benefit significantly from IP protection: industry, academic institutions* and researchers.

  • IP Importance for Industry Stakeholders

IP rights are key to securing exclusivity and the ability to profit from an innovation [1].  Secrecy is paramount to development in a particular field of use. Through that secrecy companies are able to gain competitive advantage allowing them to corner the market.  Additionally, IP allows for the marketability of a product for widespread clinical use thereby taking an innovation out of research and into the hands of health providers and patients.

  • IP Importance for Academic Institutions

An important factor in commercialization for an academic institution is licensing technology to industry partners. An IP portfolio is essential for bringing value to the technology and institution. Successful licensing and production of a product lends credibility to the institution as a major player in the translational research field. A commercializable technology can also increase the value of the institutional research by demonstrating the efficacy and clinical relevance of the innovation.   

  • IP Importance for Researchers

For researchers, protecting one’s discovery and keeping it “under wraps” can be a difficult concept to grasp.  After all, researchers share their discoveries in scientific journals in order to advance their field of study.  Additionally, a researcher’s career is evaluated by publications and grants obtained.  The idea of IP seems to directly contradict the natural process of academic science.  However, if a researcher’s innovation is commercialized it has the potential to move into the clinic, thereby giving value to their research. By demonstrating that one’s research is clinically relevant it can increase the opportunities in funding and industry partnerships.

The gap between scientific discovery and product development can be made smaller through partnerships with translational researchers and academic institutions to advance technology. For effective collaboration for commercialization to take place it’s important for all stakeholders to understand that they may have disparate interest in product development but protection of innovations benefits all parties involved.  After all, it can take all three stakeholder’s engagement to bring a product to market.

[1] Kesler et al. (2012) What Medical Device Companies Need to Know about Intellectual Property. MEDS Magazine

*Academic institutions can also include research and medical centers

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