How 4 founders nearly failed on their way to commercializing their IP

A wound-healing material, created by four talented researchers from the Ege University in Turkey, nearly failed to see the eyes of the consumer. The lack of PTO knowledge, time, and funding nearly kept this innovative product from the market. In the end, the founders managed to deal with the challenge, thanks to the extra effort dedicated to their IP strategy, a proper patent application, and a lot of initiative. This is their story:

Experience and funding became the project’s liability

In 2012 four female inventors, Evren Homan Gökçe, Sakine Tuncay Tanrıverdi, Özgen Özer and İpek Eroğluby from the Ege University in Turkey, developed a biocompatible and biodegradable patch for wound-healing applications. This solution would help the skin to recover and then disappear when the body’s cells formed new tissue. The countless possibilities for this technology in the healthcare industry made this invention perfectly suited for becoming a marketable product. Named Dermalix the patch could potentially reach millions of patients suffering from harsh skin pathologies worldwide. 


Dermalix package

The decision of making Dermalix accessible for the market led to early patent protection thanks to the experience from the university technology transfer office. But initial commercialization attempts through licensing failed. A low number of interested private organizations and the high cost of patenting became the product’s biggest obstacles. Likewise, the time to decide the level of protection and the countries where the protection should be enforced was limited. The biggest issue was the lack of trust of many pharmaceuticals around the world for products not created in their own laboratories.


The breaking point for Dermalix partnership opportunities

The proactive team resolved to create their startup called Demi Pharma with support from local grants, investments from startup acceleration programs, and spin-off interactions. Thanks to a proper IP strategy, they were granted patent protection which facilitated the creation of commercialization possibilities in regions such as North America, Eurasia, Australia, and South America. The granted patent also opened the possibility to open a partnership with a Turkish pharmaceutical company willing to invest in R&D projects and products to improve patients’ lives. 

After a lot of negotiation, many years of development, even more years in the patent application process, and more, the product was finally released in June 2021. The team got to understand the critical role of an IP strategy for a successful technology transfer in the healthcare industry, and overall, the importance of patents to start-ups. 

Some takeaways from the study case:

  •  An IP score makes it possible to analyze, graphically visualize and document the pros and cons of technologies and research projects identified during the technology transfer process.
  • Having a strong business orientation is a great benefit for academic spin-out formation.
  • A well-defined IP strategy is a critical factor for IP-based spin-off companies.
  • Involving a global IP and licensing network can provide deeper insights for better IP strategy and IP commercialization.

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