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Michael Moore is a Partner at Keltie. He has a Natural Sciences degree from the University of Cambridge.

 

He has a PhD in biochemistry. Before joining Keltie, he worked at a start-up biotechnology and gene therapy company.

 

 

Congratulations on achieving GOLD in the Biotechnology, Food & Healthcare category. What inspired you to pursue a career in this field, and what has your journey been like so far?

 

I’m lucky enough to have had two careers in this field. I entered the patent profession after I turned 30, following some years in scientific research.

 

Following my PhD in biotechnology and molecular biology, I completed two post-doc research positions at the Medical Research Council. I then joined a start-up gene therapy company, Gendaq, which we spun out of our research. I was a Team Leader and Senior Scientist at Gendaq before the company was sold, and I entered the patent profession.

 

I was passionate about medical research (and still am), and the feeling that good things could evolve from my work was a strong motivator. I never anticipated leaving research until I started working with patent attorneys as part of my role at Gendaq. The realisation dawned on me that, as a patent attorney, I could contribute to developing and protecting groundbreaking research in biotechnology and healthcare, which would not otherwise have been possible.

 

I am now lucky to work with intelligent and motivated scientists across varied areas of the biotechnology and healthcare communities. As a patent attorney, I see new scientific breakthroughs almost as they occur, which is incredibly rewarding. The nature of this job means that every day is very different to the last – which is great; often with a number of different technologies crossing my desk each day. This can be, and generally is, challenging; but the buzz I get from feeling that I am contributing to the success of biotechnological and medical research is still there.

 

What do you consider the most groundbreaking developments in Biotech in recent years, especially in areas that earned you a Gold Award?

 

Artificial intelligence (AI), but at the same time, this is too obvious an answer! AI and deep learning have hugely impacted most areas of biotechnology and healthcare. The scientific community has for years been sitting on enormous amounts of data concerning successful and failed experiments. As far as AI and deep learning are concerned, all such data is invaluable in training new models and finding new solutions. As Sir Isaac Newton once said (he probably said it way more than once; I would, if I had come up with such a great quote), “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." While that is true of great scientists, an AI machine, suitably trained, is capable of standing on the heads of all of those giants. It is no wonder that AI has pressed the fast-forward button in many research areas.

AI also creates challenges in intellectual property (IP) practice, as research based on AI and software has evolved at a far greater rate than the most relevant patent laws.
 
One great benefit of AI in healthcare is image analysis and diagnosis. For example, AI can interpret X-rays and microscope images with far greater speed and accuracy than any experienced human.
 
In the field of gene editing, which is a favourite area of mine, CRISPR* technology has had an enormous impact over the past few years. And its importance continues to grow. CRISPR technology has enabled rapid, accurate, reliable, and relatively straightforward gene mutagenesis, knock-out, and replacement. While it has potentially massive implications for new, direct therapies, it has also made a myriad of disease models accessible to research, which should greatly aid in researching potential treatments and/or cures for diseases that may otherwise have gone undiscovered. CRISPR is not the only valuable technology in gene editing, but it has had a great impact in a very short time.
 
Over recent years, I have seen an increasing number of RNA-related inventions, for example, based on siRNA, miRNA, and antisense RNA. I believe that this reflects a growing recognition of the importance of RNA and RNA-based mechanisms in disease phenotype and progression, and it seems likely that this trend will continue, especially given that in many cases, AI is significantly contributing to our understanding of how RNA can be used.
 
Finally, I should mention 3D printing, which is traditionally thought of in connection with inorganic materials such as metals, polymers, and glass. I am in awe of how 3D printing has evolved into bioprinting and tissue engineering and the fact that living materials, such as organs, bones, and tissues, can be manufactured in a matter of hours for potential use in skin grafts, organ transplants, and so on. In the immediate term, the benefit of such technologies for the treatment of burn victims is incredible.

 

How do you see biotechnology evolving in the next decade, particularly its impact on healthcare and food security?

 

I am fortunate to work with several AI-based companies, for example, in the pharmaceutical sector. The increase in speed and reduction in the cost of research and testing that is possible through the use of guided AI for the discovery of potential new pharmaceutical products is astounding. I think that these technologies will make it increasingly possible to identify useful medical interventions for an enormous number of diseases and conditions that may otherwise have been ignored.
 
Personalised medicine and interventions are now more likely than ever before. This is at least partly due to the availability of AI-based systems that can uniquely analyse an individual’s genetic and phenotypic circumstances over time, and do so at affordable costs. I expect to see more personalised medicines and inventions capable of adapting to specific individuals.


AI is also having a significant impact in areas such as food production, safety, security, and disease resistance. With an ever-growing population, ever-dwindling food resources, and a backdrop of unfavourable climate changes, we are now, arguably, wholly reliant on AI to provide the information necessary to secure the future of our planet. On a simple level, in some Western countries, nearly 40% of all food is wasted. AI is being used to track food supplies from farms/factories to retailers, restaurants, and homes to understand where waste occurs and teach how to harvest, ship, and supply food more efficiently. AI is used to monitor the health, growth, and welfare of animals (and crops) and can be used to ensure animals and plants are treated for sickness/pests only when necessary and as appropriate. AI is used to monitor and improve crop health and biodiversity by tracking key contributing factors, such as weather cycles, soil health, water stress, and crop yields.

 

What challenges do clients face in this area, and how can Keltie help?

 

Clients who wish to protect their inventions in these areas face technical challenges, of course; but also, to an extent, legal challenges brought about through legal uncertainty as IP laws struggle to keep up with the rapid pace of technological advancement. Patent laws are straining to make sense of AI-based inventions. For example, how does a legal system built around centuries of human endeavour and creativity adapt in a decade to a world where AI might be (and perhaps should be) considered the creator or inventor? Legal uncertainties are nothing new; for years, the patent landscape and legal framework concerning biotechnology have moved and evolved alongside ever-changing IP laws that attempt to track technical advances, but rarely keep up with the pace of scientific endeavour.

 

IP law and obtaining IP rights is complex, time-consuming, laborious, and expensive. It can take many years to obtain a granted patent right, which can be enforced, and there will be many hurdles and costs along the way. Once a patent has been granted, it can be difficult to enforce that right simply because, in some circumstances, it cannot be readily proven whether a patent has been infringed by a competitor doing something similar. 

 

Client education is important in the IP sector, and at Keltie, we aim to ensure that all clients, especially new clients, are aware of the process and the costs that can be expected in seeking to protect and/or enforce their IP.

 

Keltie has attorneys with great levels of scientific knowledge and experience. Many of us have worked in industry before becoming patent attorneys. Many of us have experienced secondments into client teams. Here we have witnessed the factors and decisions our clients face in developing and protecting their IP. With this experience that our attorneys and support teams can draw upon, we aim to make the complex process of protecting IP as simple as possible, whatever field of endeavour our clients operate in.

 

What do you think makes a successful law/IP firm?

 

I think that is changing. I feel that it is no longer possible to serve clients in the best way by standing still and relying solely on the experience and expertise of the past. Rather, a successful IP firm is adaptable and forward-looking. The worldwide crises that we have all faced recently, with pandemics, recession, and even Brexit for UK firms, have taught us that the environment we operate in (especially financially) can rapidly change and can have drastic impacts on how our clients and collaborators want to interact with us.

Meanwhile, the threat and opportunities presenting themselves to the IP industry from artificial intelligence (AI) and other technological innovations will change the IP profession (for better or worse) within the foreseeable future.

 

Clients will want to see benefits from these technical advances in their interactions with their attorneys and in relation to fees, and a successful IP firm will need to deliver on these unwritten promises, especially in financially difficult times.

 

In addition, I believe that a successful IP firm should be client-oriented and focused on doing its very best for each of its clients as individuals. This means understanding a client's needs and having the desire to provide each client with the service and attention that they deserve. Most of our new clients come from referrals, which I think is a sign that we are doing most things right, but there is always room for improvement, and that is what a good IP firm will strive for.

 

What advantages do clients gain from working with a specialist IP firm like Keltie, especially in the biotechnology and healthcare fields?

 

IP law is not stagnant or inorganic; it is like a developing organic life form. It is frequently necessary to adapt to and deal with changes, many of which can be predicted but some cannot.

 

A client wants their house to be built on firm foundations. The same is true when a client seeks to build an IP portfolio. The ground on which IP is built can shift unexpectedly. If the IP did not have a firm foundation beforehand, there is far less chance of it surviving the legal challenges that arise during its 20-year lifetime.

 

An experienced, specialist IP law firm should create IP rights that take into account their knowledge of the law and also the practical issues of owning, defending, and enforcing those rights so that a capability to deal with unexpected (or possible) events is built into the framework of those rights. Without that experience of, for example, how to defend a patent and adapt the claims according to different legal challenges, the costs of obtaining those rights in the first place could be entirely wasted.

 

*CRISPR is a technology that can be used to edit genes. You can find out more here: https://www.yourgenome.org/theme/what-is-crispr-cas9/

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