Patents and Commercial Development

All new medicines need to be patented before they go into clinical trials. Sam Ogunsalu is a Commercial Development professional in Queen Mary Innovation, the company owned by Queen Mary University of London that helps researchers take their discoveries through the patent process and towards the market.

In addition to securing patents, Sam is a dealmaker who has to figure out which experimental medicines show the greatest potential to help people, and which are the likeliest to attract pharmaceutical companies that will pay to take them into Phase I, Phase II, and Phase III clinical trials and then to the stage where they can help patients.

“We take patents and ideas from a very early stage,” he says, “And we try to find ways of developing them commercially and proving that they work, so getting somebody to invest in them, taking them forward, turning them into products that can be sold, or developing them into therapies which can be used to cure people.”

Managing patents is tricky and expensive. Keeping the rights to a patent for a new medicine or technology can cost several hundreds of thousands of pounds. If there are no investors, the patents can lapse, and this makes new discoveries commercially worthless.

Sam’s job is to make sure as many good ideas as possible are developed into medicines. He is a skilled communicator who builds personal relationships with researchers and inventors as well as commercial partners, so he can better negotiate commercial deals. “That first deal is the most difficult,” he says, “Because lots of fantastic ideas die before they leave the university, for two reasons: one: we don’t have the money to maintain a patent forever. And two: We can’t always get a deal, because interest may not be out there.”

Sam began his scientific career studying microbiology, and later, biochemical engineering. He spent a few years in research before he started using both scientific and business acumen to advise on the commercial applications of new discoveries. “If you want a career in something like this,” Sam says, “the key is understanding what the person is talking about, because you then have to formulate applications. You may have to suggest what invention could be used for…Part of our job is to also to suggest to how they could possibly enhance their invention. to help make the invention as good as it can be.” Sam finds his job, “…stimulating and always great fun.”

Sam Ogunsalu