A More Transparent System for Clinical Trials Data in Europe – Mind the Gaps!

By Timo Minssen

Following the approval of the European Parliament (EP) earlier last month, the Council of the European Union (the Council) adopted on 14 April 2014 a “Regulation on clinical trials on medicinal products for human use” repealing Directive 2001/20/EC.  As described in a press-release, the new law:

“aims to remedy the shortcomings of the existing Clinical Trials Directive by setting up a uniform framework for the authorization of clinical trials by all the member states concerned with a given single assessment outcome. Simplified reporting procedures, and the possibility for the Commission to do checks, are among the law’s key innovations.”

Moreover, and very importantly, the Regulation seeks to improve transparency by requiring pharmaceutical companies and academic researchers to publish the results of all their European clinical trials in a publicly-accessible EU database. In contrast to earlier stipulations which only obliged sponsor to publish the end-results of their clinical trials, the new law requires full clinical study reports to be published after a decision on – or withdrawal of – marketing authorization applications. Sponsors who do not comply with these requirements will face fines.

These groundbreaking changes will enter into force 20 days after publication in the Official Journal of the EU. However, it will first apply six months after a new EU portal for the submission of data on clinical trials and the above mentioned EU database have become fully functional. Since this is expected to take at least two years, the Regulation will apply in 2016 at the earliest (with an opt-out choice available until 2018).

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New regulatory pathways and incentives for sustainable antibiotics: Recent European & US Initiatives

By Timo Minssen

Please find attached a ppt presentation on “New regulatory pathways and incentives for sustainable antibiotics: Recent European & US Initiatives” given on March 7, 2014 at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.  The presentation was followed by a discussion moderated by US patent attorney Melissa Hunter-Ensor, Partner at Saul Ewing, Boston.

I started out by emphasizing increasing problems of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) on a global level, providing new statistics and facts. This was followed by a discussion of main reasons for these alarming developments, such as inappropriate use in agriculture and medicine, insufficient precautions, lack of education, climate change, travel behavior, insufficient collaboration and funding of R&D, scientific complexities, and the problem that incentives provided by the traditional innovation system model often fail in the case of antibiotics.

Next the presentation focused on a variety of solution models that could be discussed to fight AMR. These include both conservational and preventive approaches comprising use limitations, increased public awareness, and better hygiene, but also reactive push & pull strategies, such as increased investments, new collaborative models for R&D in antibiotics, prizes, “sui generis” IP-related incentives, regulatory responses and new pathways for approval.

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Review of Minssen, “Assessing the Inventiveness of Biopharmaceuticals under the European and U.S. Patent Laws”

Harold C. Wegner reviews Petrie-Flom Visiting Scholar Timo Minssen‘s doctoral thesis. From the review:
Patent applicants seeking to gain global patent protection beyond their home country borders need a better comparative knowledge of key elements of the patent laws of the several countries. Professor Timo Minssen in his superb doctoral thesis directly challenges the seemingly identical statutory and treaty standards for patentability in Europe and the United States in his comparative study of the laws of Europe and the United States with respect to the treaty standard of an “inventive step.” Timo Minssen, ASSESSING THE INVENTIVENESS OF BIOPHARMACEUTICALS UNDER THE EUROPEAN AND U.S. PATENT LAWS (Goteborg, Sweden: Ineko AB 2012). Professor Minssen’s doctoral thesis represents required reading for anyone seeking to unmask the subtle differences between American and European practice (emphasis added).
Read the full review.

TOMORROW: Patents without Patents: Regulatory Incentives for Innovation in the Drug Industry

February 19, 2014 12:00 PM Wasserstein Hall 1015
1585 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge

In the pharmaceutical industry, patents are the preeminent incentive for innovation in developing new drugs.  But patents aren’t the whole story; regulatory agencies also offer different forms of exclusivity—enforced by the agencies themselves—to encourage different forms of innovation in the industry.  This panel will discuss actual and potential roles for those rewards in the context of developing new drugs, new uses for old drugs, and new ways to make drugs, in both the United States and the European Union. Panelists include:

  • Benjamin N. Roin, Hieken Assistant Professor in Patent Law, Harvard Law School; Faculty Co-Director, the Petrie-Flom Center
  • W. Nicholson Price II, Academic Fellow, the Petrie-Flom Center
  • Timo Minssen, Associate Professor, University of Copenhagen Faculty of Law; Visiting Scholar, the Petrie-Flom Center
  • Moderator, Aaron Kesselheim, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Director of the Program On Regulation, Therapeutics, And Law (PORTAL), Division of Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacoeconomics, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital

This event is free and open to the public. Lunch will be served. For questions, contact petrie-flom@law.harvard.edu or  617-495-2316.

 

New paper on “Standardization, IPRs and Open Innovation in Synthetic Biology”

By Timo Minssen

I am pleased to announce that we have today published the following paper:

Minssen, Timo and Wested, Jakob Blak, Standardization, IPRs and Open Innovation in Synthetic Biology (February 14, 2014). Available at SSRN.

This brief book contribution stems from a presentation given at the 2013 conference “Innovation, Competition, Collaboration” at Bucerius Law School, Hamburg, Germany. It is currently under review by Edward Elgar.  A longer journal-version will follow.

Abstract: 

An effective and just sharing of resources for innovation needs a supportive infrastructure. One such infrastructure of both historic and contemporary significance is the development of standards. Considering recent developments within the software and ICT industries, it seems fair to assume that the process of standardization may also have significant impact on the development and adoption of Synthetic Biology (SB). Within SB different standardization efforts have been made, but few have assumed dominance or authority. Standardization efforts within SB may differ within various technical areas, and also the basic processes of standard creation can be divided into various categories. The different technical areas and processes for standardization differ in their speed, handling of interests and ability to dodge possible IPR concerns.

Out of this notion arises i.a. the following questions: How comparable is engineering in SB to more traditional fields of engineering?; What type of standards have emerged and what bearing have IPRs on these?; and, How applicable are the approaches adopted by the standards-setting organizations in the information and communication technology (ICT) to biological standards? These and further legal issues related to IP, regulation, standardization, competition law & open innovation require a careful consideration of new user-generated models and solutions.

Before this background, our paper seeks to describe IP and standardization aspects of SB in order to discuss them in the context of the “open innovation” discourse. We concentrate on describing the technology and identifying areas of particular relevance. Ultimately we also sketch out open questions and potential solutions requiring further research. However, due to the limitation of this paper we do not aim to create elaborated theories or to propose solutions in more detail. Rather this paper, which will be complemented by more extensive follow-up studies, provides a first overview on the complex questions that we are currently dealing with.

To achieve this modest goal, section 1 commences with a brief introduction to the fascinating science of SB and a description of recent technological advances and applications. This will lead us to section 2, in which we will address standard setting efforts in SB, as well as the relevance and governance of various IPRs for specific SB standards. This provides the basis for section 3, in which we debate problematic issues and summarize our conclusions.

2/19: Patents without Patents: Regulatory Incentives for Innovation in the Drug Industry

February 19, 2014 12:00 PM Wasserstein Hall 1015
1585 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge

In the pharmaceutical industry, patents are the preeminent incentive for innovation in developing new drugs.  But patents aren’t the whole story; regulatory agencies also offer different forms of exclusivity—enforced by the agencies themselves—to encourage different forms of innovation in the industry.  This panel will discuss actual and potential roles for those rewards in the context of developing new drugs, new uses for old drugs, and new ways to make drugs, in both the United States and the European Union. Panelists include:

  • Benjamin N. Roin, Hieken Assistant Professor in Patent Law, Harvard Law School; Faculty Co-Director, the Petrie-Flom Center
  • W. Nicholson Price II, Academic Fellow, the Petrie-Flom Center
  • Timo Minssen, Associate Professor, University of Copenhagen Faculty of Law; Visiting Scholar, the Petrie-Flom Center
  • Moderator, Aaron Kesselheim, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Director of the Program On Regulation, Therapeutics, And Law (PORTAL), Division of Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacoeconomics, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital

This event is free and open to the public. Lunch will be served. For questions, contact petrie-flom@law.harvard.edu or  617-495-2316.

Speech at US Patent Experts Conference in Naples Florida

The University of Akron School of Law will host the 2nd Annual Midwinter Patent Experts Conference in Naples, Florida February 10-11, 2014. The conference will be held at the Naples Hilton Hotel.

The faculty for the program includes, from the judiciary, the Hon. Kathleen O’Malley and the Hon. Richard Linn, of the Federal Circuit, as well the Hon. Roger T. Hughes, of the Federal Court of Canada. From the executive branch, the current acting director of the PTO, the Hon. Teresa Stanek Rea, will participate, as will the current Chairman of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board, James S. Smith, and former Administrative Patent Judge William F. Smith. Former PTO Deputy Director Sharon Barner and former Commissioner for Patents Robert Stoll will also participate. Robert A. Armitage, the father of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, will also be a featured participant.

A number of law professors who specialize in patent law are also included in the program. They include Dean Timothy Holbrook and Assoc. Professor Timo Minssen, Christal Sheppard, Dennis Crouch, Jason Rantanen, W. Keith Robinson, William Hubbard and Dr. Heinz Goddar. Senior corporate lawyers include Sharon R. Barner, Vice-President of Cummins Inc., and Richard Rainey, in charge of worldwide IP litigation for GE.

I have been invited to participate in a panel debate on “non-obviousness” and to give a speech on “A comparative US/European view on the law of non-obviousness” . My presentation will provide an introductory overview over relevant legal frameworks and various doctrinal concepts of the European and U.S. non-obviousness assessment. I will also discuss recent case-law developments that are of particular practical relevance. Special emphasis will be laid on chemical and biotech case law. I intend to argue that the KSR-induced, more flexible US-approach to obviousness has moved closer to the European approach and that I welcome this development. Yet, I also underline that specific statements in KSR and subsequent case law rightfully attracted criticism in both Europe and the US. Moreover, I plan to point out that by carefully aligning national case law with EPO precedent, recent U.K. decisions have applied a more “patent-friendly” approach with respect to, inter alia, the “obvious to try” issue and selection inventions. These decisions provide valuable insights and arguments to those who fear that KSR inevitably tipped the pendulum towards an overly strict non-obviousness standard, which disregards hindsight problems, the dynamics of the research environment, and the importance of patents in pharmaceutical R&D.

View the slides from this presentation here.

Book Review: Pharmaceutical Innovation, Competition and Patent Law – A Trilateral Perspective

By Timo Minssen

Following a request by the European Competition Law Review (Sweet Maxwell), I have today submitted a review of the recent publication  “Pharmaceutical Innovation, Competition and Patent Law – A Trilateral Perspective”, edited by Max Planck Director Josef Drexl and Finnish scholar Nari Lee (Edward Elgar 2013, 322 p., ISBN 978 0 85793 245 7). The full contribution (6 pp.) is curently undergoing peer-review.

In summary, I conclude that the editors, who also contributed with excellent papers, have succeeded very well in the difficult task of structuring, systemizing and arranging a compilation of very interesting papers written by high profile authors. This has resulted in a very readable book providing a superb overview and up-to-date analysis of recent developments that have such a substantial impact on a significant area of law and practice. But are there any flaws?

Considering the numerous useful case law citations, as well as the wide scope of the book, it is a little unfortunate that the book does not contain a table of cases or a bibliography of material cited by the respective authors. Also it might perhaps have been beneficial to include some contributions from the pharmaceutical industry, private practice or NGOs. There is of course no doubt that all papers have been written by very competent authors and address real-world issues with much devotion to facts, details and commercial realities. But additional contributions by the industry or “field workers” would probably have enriched the numerous debates that are placed in such an extraordinarily complex environment at the interface of business realities, competition, technological innovation, and access to health care.

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Paper on “Legal aspects of biobanking as key issues for personalized medicine & translational exploitation”

By Timo Minssen

I am pleased to announce that my co-author Professor Jens Schovsbo from the University of Copenhagen and I completed a paper addressing “Legal aspects of biobanking as key issues for personalized medicine & translational exploitation”.

This perspective article, which has been written upon request by the medical journal “Personalized Medicine”, deals with the legal aspects of biobanking and points towards the concerns, interest, and choices that should be considered when establishing and operating a biobank. It focuses on public biobanks in a university setting and the specific challenges posed by PM with a special focus on publicly funded biobanks, commercialization issues and the involvement of industry.

To this end we start out by briefly discussing differing definitions of the term biobank and highlighting the particular significance of biobanks for the development of PM and translational innovation. The next part describes the inherently complex, dynamic and heterogeneous environment in which legal challenges to biobanking and the regulation of biomedicine must be considered. Based on our finding we then sketch out more specific legal problems that might occur throughout the various chronological stages of biobanking regarding consent obligations and intellectual property rights (IPR). After this we use an on-going interdisciplinary research project based at the University of Copenhagen (UCPH) to illustrate how the legal and ethical challenges might be dealt with analytically and in a practical way that reflects the concerns and interest of stakeholders in biobanking and results in a transparent, legally and ethically robust system. In our closing remarks we make recommendations on how to improve the legal framework for biobanking and in particular for the challenges posed by PM.

We conclude that any decisions as to the design of the regulatory environment should follow a process that takes account of the values, hopes and concerns of all stakeholders involved. In particular, we stress the importance of a careful planning of consent obligations combining traditional legal methods with an adequate institutional set up. In order to enhance the translational exploitation of biobanks, we further emphasize the pressing need to carefully consider a great variety of strategies and policy choices relating to intellectual property rights (IPRs).

We will publish the paper on SSRN as soon as we receive the approval by “Personalized Medicine”. I’ll keep you posted.

UPDATE: The full paper is now available here.