Patent rights and commercialization—The key to developing a new cancer immune primer
The life sciences call for perseverance, time, and money as well as a willingness to think strategically about patents at an early stage. The Gothenburg-based company Immunicum which is developing a new cell-based therapy to treat cancer, appreciates the value of working with a dedicated and knowledgeable team. Immunicum has a long-standing collaboration with Ström & Gulliksson and their European patent attorney Magnus Berglund, because they have a full grasp of the interplay between business models and patent strategies.
“It is essential we have a proactive partner who understands our values and core business,” says Carlos de Sousa, CEO of Immunicum.
With over 25 years of experience in the the pharmaceutical and biotech industry at a senior level, Immunicum’s CEO Carlos de Sousa knows how crucial it is to work with a skilled patent attorney. Especially, someone who is familiar with the entire process, from strategizing the patent application to legal advice in the event of a patent infringement suit.
“Our patents exist to protect us as much as possible because we operate in a particularly specialized field. Furthermore,Immunicum is a relatively small company with only 13 employees, so we rely on the support of external experts. The immuno-oncology field we are operating in is very competitive, therefore our patent portfolio is critical to the success of the company.”
Immunicum is developing new immunological treatments for a range of solid tumours. The company’s method is to use allogeneic dendritic cells (another person’s cells rather than the patient’s), which are designed to activate and help the immune system attack the patient’s tumour.
“In addition to the protection secured by our patent portfolio, there is also other legislation that makes it hard for others to copy our results. Our patents are incredibly important, and we value proactivity in our current patent applications and in ensuring that our research results have the greatest possible protection. Ström & Gulliksson meets all our needs,” says Carlos de Sousa.
Tailored advice and a flexible IP-strategy
Magnus Berglund, European patent attorney and partner at Ström & Gulliksson, has worked closely with Immunicum for years:
“Our in-depth knowledge of international patent law means we offer tailored advice for all our customers. My focus is on providing Immunicum with strategic advice and guidance throughout the application process, and of course in its discussions with partners and in any litigation that arises. The moment for litigation usually comes after a product has been launched, but it is still important to have it in mind in the early stages of the patent process.”
Carlos de Sousa has extensive experience regarding patent applications in the US, Europe, and elsewhere, and is well aware of the importance of having a flexible IP strategy that can keep pace with the company.
“In the biotech industry, this is a major issue when gauging freedom to operate. I know the benefits of experience when handling potential conflicts with other companies operating in the same field. Additionally, it is important that your patent strategy takes into account the challenges that might arise at a later stage,” says Carlos de Sousa.
Professor Alex Karlsson-Parra, Immunicum’s co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer, has worked with transplant immunology for over 30 years and knows from experience when best to apply for a patent.
“Obviously, I knew from the start that I would need money if the research was to continue, but funding is not my strong suit. My focus has always been immunology in the widest sense, and in particular, how we can harness the body’s own immune system to attack cancer cells. That’s my contribution to Immunicum’s development. It’s been important for me to surround myself with people with real drive who are experts in other areas,” says Alex Karlsson-Parra, who values Immunicum’s long-standing collaboration with Ström & Gulliksson.
“The company has made significant progress thanks to Magnus’ advice and support in all our patent issues. His commitment to our research and results is outstanding, as is his knowledge of our core business.”
A strong patent portfolio is indispensable to reach the market
Immunicum today holds a number of important patents. Furthermore, an extended study known as a Phase 2 clinical trial, is currently underway across Europe and US. It is expected to finish in 2019.
“As for our collaboration with Ström & Gulliksson, it is based on an open, two-way dialogue. In order to put together a good patent application, I, as a researcher, have to be completely open and transparent, and that comes naturally when working with Magnus. Although his academic background is not in immunology, he has an impressive ability to understand this complex field, and he is a major factor in our ability to protect our discoveries and put our inventions in the right context,” says Alex Karlsson-Parra.
Magnus Berglund appreciates the challenge and the confidence that Alex Karlsson-Parra and Carlos de Sousa have placed in him over the years.
“As a patent consultant, it’s incredibly exciting to work with a biotechnology company like Immunicum. The most exciting research in cancer treatment today looks at drugs that stimulate the patient’s own immune system. For a relatively small company like Immunicum, which is ambitious and has excellent research results, a strong patent portfolio is indispensable. It means they can finance continued development so that the drug will eventually reach the market, and also ensures they have exclusive rights to the drug when it is launched,” says Magnus Berglund.
Carlos de Sousa’s plans for next year are already in place, including more clinical trials.
“Most of our time will be spent on clinical trials and on sourcing the funding to see them through. We will be starting the year determined to create change. The next few years will be very exciting in terms of advancing our lead compound ilixadencel through late-stage clinical development. We are determined to put all processes in place to bring this novel treatment to patients worldwide.”