An intellectual property database has already revealed great insights into R&D, and it opens up a whole new world of information, according to Dr Hermann Mucke.
How does one find ophthalmology information on the Internet? The answer seems easy enough: you do it just as with any other field in life sciences, by accessing MEDLINE through PubMed or another web portal. You enter your query, browse the headers and abstracts on the hit list, and select what is of actual interest to your cause. Easy and obvious enough.
But we are missing something here, and most of us are not even aware of the fact. What scientists wish to communicate, and what journals and their peer reviewers deem suitable for publication, is not nearly all that exists in the public domain. Most of the rest comes from the big patent offices in the form of intellectual property documents.
Patents: the underused information source
On the more technical side, patent documents frequently disclose essential technical information that is either never published elsewhere, or only much later. They also tend to be better at tracing those incremental improvements that define clinical advances in reasonably mature therapeutic fields. All this makes patents an appealing information source for developers.
Therefore a comprehensive, heavily annotated and user-friendly database on ocular patenting would be a highly valuable strategic and scientific information resource for the ophthalmologic field, in addition to its obvious role as an invaluable intellectual property tool for inventors and patent attorneys. However, the nature of the patenting process implies that tight selection of the entries is required to make such a database useful.
Today, whoever seeks protection for an anti-angiogenic drug will make sure to include a claim for ocular neovascularization diseases in the patent application even if the development focus is actually in solid tumours, and whoever discovers a new neuroprotectant will be likely to mention glaucoma even if the drug candidate is meant for Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease, but these would not be "ocular patents" by any count. Focus is the key, and this is something for which no keyword search term exists.
At H.M. Pharma Consultancy, we are currently developing an intellectual property database, which concentrates on those patents filed for ophthalmic conditions. This database module (working name REDWING) is concerned with intellectual property documents that have ocular drugs and drug delivery, gene therapy, molecular diagnostics and biomarkers of the eye, and cell and tissue culture technology in ophthalmology as one of their major components. (Just making ocular claims is not sufficient for inclusion. There are very precise and transparent criteria governing the selection process.) REDWING does not yet include patents for ocular implants (unless they are designed to deliver drugs), equipment and methods for eye surgery, or optometrics.
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