A valuable metric to assess in order to quantify and qualify the current nature of the global mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) market is the patent environment.
Role of Patent Analysis for Competitive Intelligence
Since the discovery of MSCs, a large and thriving research product market has grown into existence, largely because the cells are completely non-controversial and can be generated directly from adult cells. Today, the number of MSC products sold worldwide is increasing and it is clear that the cell type represents a lucrative product market. To launch MSC products and technologies, one of the key areas that company management and investors must consider is the patent landscape for the cell type.
Therefore, this post explores the following attributes surrounding the MSC patent landscape:
- Key Patents in the MSC Marketplace
- Geographical Clustering of MSC Patents
- Dominant Patent Holders (Assignees)
- Dominant Assignees (Industry Influencers)
Mesenchymal Stem Cell (MSC) Patent Landscape
The United States federal government supports a searchable patent database, the “United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Full-Text and Image Database.”1 It is a flexible and essential tool for analyzing the patent landscape of any stem cell type.
When assessing a specific cell type, such as MSCs, the USPTO patent database provides crucial information for several business intelligence (BI) metrics of importance, including:
- Dominant Industry Players: Who is the single largest patent assignee for the cell type? Who are other industry players who have substantial patent counts?
- Newly Awarded Patents: Are there recently submitted patent applications that (if approved) could affect your business?
- New Legal Requirements: Are there recently awarded patents that could create new legal requirements within the marketplace?
- Patent Trend Rates: What is the rate of patents submitted by year? Is the rate accelerating or decelerating over time? Is the change linear or exponential?
- Patent Breakdown: What patent categories have the highest count, and are therefore, the most competitive?
- Predominant Focus: What are most patents concerning? Can you identify a current theme within the research?
- Geographical Clustering: Where can you identify geographical clustering of patent activity?
- Potential Commercial Partners: Who are the assignees being awarded a large number of patents? Do these assignees represent valuable partners for research, collaboration, or similar?
- Key Research Leaders: Who are the investigators listed on a landmark patent or on multiple patents? Are these investigators “thought” leaders within the industry whose research work you should follow?
Methodology of Mesenchymal Stem Cell (MSC) Patent Analysis
For purposes of keeping this analysis specific to MSCs, the following set of terms were screened for presence within the Title or Abstract of U.S. patents: “mesenchymal stem cell” OR “mesenchymal stem cells” OR “mesenchymal stromal cell” OR “mesenchymal stromal cells”. Because these searches are not case-sensitive, there is no difference between a search for “mesenchymal stem cell” and “Mesenchymal Stem Cell.” Therefore, all of the above searches are lower case.
Those search phrases were chosen because “mesenchymal stem cell” (singular version) and “mesenchymal stem cells” (plural version) are by far the most commonly used name for the cell type. However, the terms “mesenchymal stromal cell” and “mesenchymal stromal cells” have recently gained some popularity and it added a small number of additional results, so it was included as well.
The Title and Abstract were chosen as the areas of the patent to search, because the Title is a highly-specific phrase that captures the focus of the patent and the Abstract is also limited to a 2-3 sentence description, making it highly focused and specific as well. This search determines that there are 187 patents that have the described MSC terms appearing within the Title or the Abstract of the patent.
For reference, where the MSC search terms above are searched within all fields of all U.S. patents issued to date (including within the Description, Specifications, Claims and more), 4,067 total results are returned. However, these patents are not included in the list below because, in many of these situations, MSCs are often referenced within a patent for purposes of describing prior methods, knowledge, or system.
Mesenchymal Stem Cell (MSC) Patents Filed in 2015
When only patents filed in 2015 are searched, there are a total of 46 MSC patents that are returned. This search is most effectively executed using the Google Patent Search tool (www.google.com/patents), because it allows for enhanced searching of patents by time criteria. These patents are identified in the table below.
TABLE. Mesenchymal Stem Cell Patents Filed in 2015
Source: Google.com/patents. ‘Google’. N.p., 2015. Web. 15 Oct. 2015.
Clearly, MSC patents are being filed by a wide range of different individual inventors and assignees. With no more than a few assignees (such as Anthrogenesis Corporation and The Regents Of The University Of California) filing multiple MSC patents in 2015, the patent environment for MSC filings remains a fragmented environment.
This is unusual as compared to other stem cell types, where a few assignees typically secure dominant intellectual property (IP) positions.
For instance, with induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), a single inventor, Shinya Yamanaka, controls 8 patents, representing nearly 10% of the existing intellectual property for the cell type.2 In addition, a single assignee, Kyoto University, has secured 12 iPSC patents, representing nearly 18% of the existing intellectual capital for iPSCs.3
Therefore, the fragmented nature of the MSC intellectual property environment is an element that is somewhat unique to the MSC marketplace. It will be interesting to watch over the next 3-5 years whether individual investors or assignees decide to invest in securing stronger MSC intellectual property portfolios.
Across the patents listed in the previous table, there are also a variety of sources being targeted as sources for MSC derivation, ranging from dental tissue (“oddontogenic MSCs”), to placental tissue, amniotic tissue, adipose tissue, and more.
Geographically, the majority of MSC patents are held by assignees located within North America (predominantly U.S. assignees) and Asia (predominantly Chinese assignees), although some European countries are represented to a lesser degree.
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1 Uspto.gov. ‘Search For Patents | USPTO’. N.p., 2015. Web. 15 Oct. 2015.
2 “Complete 2015-16 Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Industry Report,” published April 1, 2015. BioInformant Worldwide, LLC.