2 October, 2017
Research and passion for discovery. Formalities, a critical approach and patent applications. Although allowing someone to scrutinize, inspect and evaluate your research results at an early stage may give you pause, this is a must for ensuring a successful patent process.
“We have benefited substantially from the strategic advice and critical review of our results provided by Ström & Gulliksson. Magnus Berglund skilfully addressed the issues and discovered what was required to enable us to jointly compile and submit excellent patent applications,” says Charlotte Erlanson-Albertsson, Thylabisco AB, reflecting on many years of working with Ström & Gulliksson.
Thylabisco AB, which holds the patent, is run by Charlotte Erlanson-Albertsson, Professor of Medical and Physiological Chemistry at Lund University, and her husband Per-Åke Albertsson. The patent firm’s work for Thylabisco is characterized by ongoing dialogue. Their mutual understanding of timing and strategy has gradually improved over the years. The general appreciation and business opportunities of patents have increased, including within academia, with more and more people exploring opportunities to find investors at an earlier stage.
“However, most academics are driven by the desire to discover secrets and explore the world,” says Charlotte Erlanson-Albertsson, talking about her experience of her first years as a researcher:
“I remember when I was getting my doctorate and was completely immersed in my results. I went to sleep at night looking forward to the next morning. Overnight experiments are a real thrill. I’m still curious what the results will be, and working in an experimental field means that we constantly seek and are sometimes able to corroborate our theories.”
Thylabisco’s innovation is based on the discovery that thylakoids, a substance containing chlorophylls that is found in spinach and green leaves, delays digestion and releases satiety hormones in the intestines.
“I will never forget the Christmas when I came home and said to my husband, I need galactolipids, and he said, They can be found in thylakoids, and I have some in the refrigerator at my lab. And that’s how it all started,” says Charlotte Erlanson-Albertsson.
Thylabisco was born out of Charlotte’s interest in appetite control and the interaction between the intestines and the brain, which has played a leading role throughout her research career. Thus far, patent applications have been submitted for four effects: inhibiting fat absorption and reducing appetite, reducing sugar absorption, stimulating intestinal flora, and reducing sugar cravings.
“My dissertation focused on digestion, and I have indeed been previously involved in patent processes. This is actually the third time around and I’m super excited,” says Charlotte, who is the proud owner of a number of approved patents in several countries, although she rarely takes the time to slow down and celebrate her achievements.
“I try to remind younger scientists to buy cake and celebrate a little when an article is published. But I myself get most excited when a patent is approved; after that I put the impressive document away in a binder. An approved patent also means the clock is ticking and it’s normal to experience a degree of stress, although it’s a positive kind of stress, urging you on.
Turning discoveries into inventions
To Magnus Berglund, one of the most fascinating and stimulating parts of his job is defining what has actually been discovered in close collaboration with inventors.
“The dynamic between discovery, results and invention is at the heart of this type of project. Discoveries are not patentable per se, so you need to identify the new areas of application opened up by them,” says Magnus Berglund, who notes that the research community in particular suffers from the classic dilemma of applying for patents for something that has already been published in some form.
“There’s a difference between working for a for-profit company and someone from the world of academia. Companies often have one or more employees specifically scouting for patentability.”
Charlotte notes that academics live to publish. Applying for patents is often more of an afterthought for them. Most of the time they are more interested in disseminating their results and achieving an impact with them. Magnus Berglund is well aware of this way of thinking:
“It’s about finding a respectful balance between scrutiny and understanding. As a patent consultant, I have to quickly immerse myself in a context while scrutinizing and clarifying it to create a strong patent. Sometimes, parts of a patent application can share significant similarities with a scientific article,” Magnus Berglund explains.
Asking the right questions, finding the right comparison, but also suggesting additional experiments and further research are key parts of the process.
“When I suggest more experiments, the reason is usually to strengthen the patent application. If my client is a company with limited resources, I also intend for them to benefit from this further research in a strict business sense. This is why you gain a major advantage when strategically considering patents at an early stage to ensure they are brought into the business loop. This enables lab experiments to take into account the opportunity to develop favourable results ultimately leading to a commercial product,” says Magnus Berglund.
“From a patent perspective, having your results scrutinized can be fascinating and a bit discomforting. For me, it’s about the need to make my research and knowledge comprehensible and getting my findings out to the right people,” says Charlotte Erlanson-Albertsson, who dreams of success for many reasons:
“I dream of making a long-term contribution to groundbreaking research with a focus on a healthy lifestyle, benefiting both young and old. Women engaged in science would benefit from targeted financial support, and one of my visions is to create a foundation to this end. For creativity and inspiration to come into play you need to be able to focus all of your energy without having to worry about the noise around you and making ends meet.”
More about Thylabisco AB
The product is currently sold under the name BioCloose in Sweden as capsules to be taken every day. The main effect is to provide “a nice feeling of satiety and an end to rummaging through the pantry when you are tired and experiencing cravings.” This improves appetite control and reduces body fat. Thylabisco AB hopes to make new discoveries about the cognitive function of the brain and gain new patents. Bringing research results to the world is a return on society’s investment in education.