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10 November 2017Big Pharma

LSIPR 50 2017: Stéphane Drouin—Innovation in a volatile climate

“In the United States of America, healthcare is not a privilege for the fortunate few—it is a right,” Barack Obama said in 2013 when he spoke as President about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which had been signed into law in 2010.

The act, also known as ‘Obamacare’, aims to give more Americans access to affordable health insurance.

President Donald Trump is now trying to repeal Obamacare with the help of Republican lawmakers.

If Obamacare is repealed, this could potentially have a negative impact on patients. However, some pharmaceutical companies, such as UCB, are focused on the continued health of their patients.

LSIPR spoke to Stéphane Drouin, global head of IP at biopharmaceutical company UCB, about the company’s IP policies.

Drouin started his career in IP when he worked at law firms in Canada and France. During his time there, he focused on technology areas such as small molecules, antibodies, vaccines, devices and transgenic plants.

He has focused on patent litigation, drafting and oppositions.

In 1998, he joined pharmaceutical company Pfizer, where he led the New York IP team and the EU patent team in the UK. He also led Pfizer’s international patent organisation teams in Europe, Japan, Dubai and the US.

Drouin has worked in his current role at UCB since 2013.

“The team oversees all IP-related activities in UCB and all strategic considerations related to IP, essentially across three major areas,”
he says.

“These three major areas are creating IP linked to innovation at the company, defending and asserting our IP rights, and engaging with external stakeholders on IP policy matters.

“A fundamental role of the IP organisation is to work very closely with the teams that innovate to rapidly identify valuable IP. As the IP attorneys are strongly embedded in teams engaged in innovation, IP identification is optimal,” he adds.

“UCB is a very innovative, very patient-centric company that injects a significant amount of its revenue into research and development (R&D).”

Last year, the company’s total revenue grew to €4.2 billion ($4.4 billion), and 27% of that is spent on R&D.

Discussing how UCB defends its IP, Drouin explains that “there is a significant amount of litigation in the pharmaceutical area; mainly this is with generic companies, but not solely”.

“An important role of the IP organisation is to assert and defend UCB’s IP portfolio and to assert its rights against various companies that are trying to attack it,” he says.

UCB also spends a significant amount of time engaging with external stakeholders in order to explain how IP policies can “significantly impact” the company’s ability to deliver transformational first-in-class medicines to patients.

Drouin adds that we are living in a changing environment.

“Politically the environment is more complex and volatile, but recent advances in technology and science present promising opportunities for patients,” he says.

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