It’s all patently scientific

Inventorship for medicinal chemists signifies a key contribution to the design of chemical matter that ultimately may make a difference to patients, and as such goes well beyond simply making novel molecules. 

From an individual scientist’s perspective, it is both motivational and self-affirming – a clear win-win scenario, aside from being a legal requirement to correctly assign inventorship claims. 

In modern drug discovery teams, there is certainly merit in widening the design teams to be inclusive of as many internal and external partners, including CROs, as possible. Given the fact many key patents are frequently ‘busted’ through creative and orthogonal thinking, it stands to reason that improving the diversity of thought and equity of collaborators will lead to more robust and valuable patent filings. This certainly does not require dilution of the intellectual property ownership for the project sponsor if the correct contractual arrangements are in place. 

Patent timescales  

It typically takes 18 months for patent applications to go from initial submission to publication. As projects and the chemical matter within them progress, the patent landscape closely follows, with initial filings spilt, combined, or discontinued, and what makes it to publication is often just the tip of the iceberg. 

Of course, before submission, a significant amount of work goes into the preparation of a patent application. A successful filing requires a thorough understanding of a project’s novel chemical matter and biological application. This is often done alongside patent attorney specialists to map out and execute a robust patent strategy. 

Commercially driven time constraints often mean these documents need to be generated fast, often with very little warning, no small task when patent documents routinely run to hundreds of pages in length. Regarding patent law, there are no prizes for filing your invention after your competitor.  

Each filing is supported by a wealth of data, which must be clearly and correctly formatted. Having data handling and reporting systems to expedite this process is not only critical but essential in the competitive modern world of drug discovery. 

The value of routine reviews

The World Intellectual Property Office headquarters in Geneva

The World Intellectual Property Office headquarters in Geneva


The value of routine reviews

In addition to authoring patents, drug discovery scientists need to stay up to date with the wider patent literature. At Sygnature, we have a dedicated in-house team, who are responsible for reviewing new patents published every Thursday (via the World Intellectual Property Office), selecting key examples to share with the rest of the scientific group. 

As well as keeping us informed of any developments on our own projects, the review provides a regular snapshot of key therapeutic areas and targets being investigated by pharma, biotech, and charities, ensuring our competitive edge is maintained. 

This is a highly rewarding exercise for the team, continually broadening their scientific horizons and allowing them to engage with science outside of their day-to-day project work. 

It also adds another dimension of teamwork and helps maintain our collaborative working atmosphere, which is important in a fast-growing company. 

On a company level, the patent review allows us to compare our own patent output with that of the wider drug discovery community, and it is interesting to see how closely the two mirror each other, in terms of therapeutic area and target class. 

In 2023, of our 16 patents published in collaboration with our customers, many were in the immunology and oncology therapeutic areas, as you might expect. However, we also patented in the CNS and orphan disease space. This is a slight shift from 2022, in which our 13 patents were more weighted towards oncology and infectious diseases. 

2023 also saw our most diverse year in terms of biological targets, which of course included kinases and GPCRs, but also featured multiple different target classes.  

Since 2008, Sygnature scientists have collaborated with our clients on 177 published patents. On these, 547 Sygnature staff are recognised as inventors. Perhaps the most important statistic, however, is that 88% of these inventors are lab-based scientists, proving that the best ideas can come from those closest to the compounds themselves!   

We look forward to seeing how the patent landscape develops in 2024!