The University licensed the results of the initial research to a small company, NanoGenics, set up by three UCL academics and researchers involved in the discovery.
Fast forward a few years to 2017 and the intellectual property rights for the transfection complex were sold to a biotech company, Ryboquin, for the sum of £4.5 million.
NanoGenics’ executive chairman, Paul Murray, said in an interview with Herald Scotland in 2018 that "considerable effort had gone into convincing investors of the 'huge potential' of LipTide [a custom-built delivery system that can be modified to target different cell types]. 'We plan to grow the company quickly to a stage where we can take it public as soon as that is feasible,' he said. 'It is very rewarding to be involved in the cutting edge of medical science.'"
Matthew Fletcher, Partner and specialist on chemical subject matter and drug formulations at Abel + Imray, a UK intellectual property firm, worked with the university on the patents. He explains, "Academic work is often transferred to the wider domain through this type of process, where it is protected through IP rights, and the revenue from IP licensing used to generate income for the University and for the researchers and academics involved in the discoveries, enabling them to carry out more groundbreaking research.
"In the case of NanoGenics, the researchers had demonstrated that they had the technology to put DNA into cells at a lab scale. However, in the biotech sector, substantial resources are required to take an innovation that has been tested in the lab and scale it up for manufacturing or subjected it to regulatory approvals."
In this case, the technology and associated intellectual property rights netted £4.5 million, while the cost to file and prosecute the patent applications needed to safeguard the inventions was a fraction of that.
Matthew concludes: "Without the intellectual property rights, investment back to researchers and to Universities would not be possible". "Working with an independent IP attorney brings in a critical breadth of experience and of market players of all sizes. The wider perspective that external counsel brings is essential and part of the bridge for translating innovations from university labs to the commercial field."
For this particular discovery, work is still ongoing. Additional features of the research are still being produced by the University and the academics, and new related intellectual property is being patented and transferred to Ryboquin.
- Watch FICPI's video discussing the importance of IP rights to growth and valuation of small and medium sized businesses: https://vimeo.com/542703207
- Visit FICPI's "IP for Business" page where you'll find more case studies and resources for enterprises.