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Patent applications: the winning strategy of the Institut Curie

Patent applications: the winning strategy of the Institut Curie

At the start of April 2022, the European Patent Office (EPO) published its annual innovation report, the Patent Index 2021. 

3 Jun 2022

France is the 5th most innovative country in the world and could improve its position by replicating initiatives like that of the Institut Curie, which in 2016 reinforced its Development and Industrial Partnerships department.

Patent applications rose by 4.5% in Europe in 2021. 188,600 applications were filed, according to the EPO’s Patent Index 2021. 

The top five countries of origin for European patent applications are the United States (25%), Germany (14%), Japan (11%), China (9%), and France (6%). 

In 2021, France filed 10,537 European patent applications. Sanofi (291 applications) and Inserm (237) rank 5th and 8th respectively for the number of patent applications filed. 

The success of the inventions patented by the Institut Curie 

In 2022, the Institut Curie is celebrating the 20th anniversary of its first spin-off startup DOSIsoft, a leader in the development of patient-specific software solutions for radiotherapy and nuclear medicine. In all, the Institut has created 28 startups, i.e., around 250 jobs. 

2016 was a pivotal year. A dedicated department was reorganized to optimize the detection and protection of inventions developed internally by the 3,500 employees of Curie’s research center and hospitals (patents or software licenses). The Development and Industrial Partnerships department is made up of 17 people across several units (specialized in intellectual property, invention detection, market research and prospecting, project support, establishing connections with investment funds and business leaders, etc.). The department works closely with a network of “tech transfer” ambassadors who report inventions observed in the field. 

An incubation program was set up to develop around a dozen projects per year before the startup was created and in the first few years of its existence. Ten years ago, Curie was also awarded its first Carnot label for partnership-based research. The Institut has its own capital resources under the Curie Innov’ program, which it uses to finance part of the patent development process.

“Patents enable us to partner with a company to develop a product or service that is beneficial to patients and to society as a whole, and to introduce it to the marketplace (…). Anyone can create a startup; it only takes ten minutes. But to be successful, a business must have the means to grow and to apply for patent licenses, otherwise it is just an empty shell,” says Cécile Campagne, head of the Development and Industrial Partnerships department at the Institut Curie and assistant director of Carnot Curie Cancer. 

The spin-offs are loyal to their mother company. The majority continue to work with Curie long term, even filing joint patents with it. PEP-Therapy (innovative peptides used in targeted oncology treatments) conducts all of its clinical trials at the Institut Curie’s hospitals. The operating blocks are also equipped with products from the startup Avatar Medical, which is developing cutting-edge virtual reality technology to facilitate surgical procedures.

Thanks to this intellectual property strategy, the Institut Curie has filed almost 800 patents and 400 invention disclosures since 2011, including 56 patents delivered in 2021. 95% of these spin-offs are still in business after five years, with over 50 products and services on the market. They have an 88% success rate in the i-Lab innovation competition (a French government initiative to support innovation projects with strong potential for growing the French economy). 

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