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Lippold, Marcus. (1/13/15). "[LSE] Interview: An Exclusive Interview with Mark Bloomfield, CEO of Polyplus-transfection S.A., on the Policies of Larger Companies with Regard to IP of Smaller Firms (Part 2)".

Organisations Organisation [iito] Business Intelligence
  Organisation 2 Polyplus-transfection S.A.
Products Product transfection reagents
  Product 2 IP services
Persons Person Bloomfield, Mark (Polyplus-transfection 201004– CEO before ABI + Thermo Electron + Agilent + HP)
  Person 2 Lippold, Marcus ([iito] Business Intelligence 2002–)
     


[LSE] Interview
Special issue of the [LSE] Newsletter


[LSE] Interview with Mark Bloomfield (Part 2)
CEO of Polyplus-transfection S.A.


»It's your IP, but we don't care«

A discussion of the policies of large companies in the life science space with regard to the IP of smaller firms





by Marcus Lippold

[iito] Business Intelligence
Editor-in-Chief

Life-Sciences-Europe.com



with Neil Hunter from Image Box PR in the background







This interview is divided into three parts:



Part 1 describes the general problem of large companies ignoring the IP of smaller ones.



Part 2 presents the particular case of Mark Bloomfield and Polyplus-transfection S.A., a company with an IP portfolio in chemical transfection technology to bring DNA into cells. The IP originates from the University of Strasbourg, French research organisation CNRS and the company itself.



Part 3 finally discusses general factors relevant to the problem and points to possible actions to improve the situation.




This special issue of the [LSE] Newsletter includes part 2 of the interview.

The final Part 3 of this interview with Mark Bloomfield will be published in the next issue of the [LSE] Interview series.

The first part of the interview can be found online at
http://www.life-sciences-europe.com/newsletter/lse-newsletter-510001s1.html







PART 2
„What can be done“ or: a Courageous Example






Marcus Lippold [ML]

»Mark, could you please introduce yourself a bit?«


Mark Bloomfield [MB]

»Sure, I am the CEO of Polyplus-transfection SA, a company based in Illkirch, near Strasbourg, in the Alsace region at the Eastern border of France, next to Germany. I am 55 years old, born in the UK, and started in the life sciences industry with sales jobs after university. Early on I was at Carlo Erba, which has then been acquired by Thermo, afterwards I had a UK sales position with Hewlett-Packard (HP, now Agilent) in MS and chromatography. I then moved to Waldbronn in Germany at HP/Agilent, responsible for European sales development for GC and GC/MS. In 2001 I joined Thermo Electron, being responsible for EMEA and India sales and customer facing functions such as customer services, training, field marketing and service delivery. Afterwards I worked in the Molecular & Cell Biology Business with ABI (becoming Invitrogen, then Life Technologies and now also Thermo). Later I went on to work for Danish diagnostics company Dako (now Agilent) and finally I joined Polyplus-transfection in 2010 as CEO.« 



ML

»So it’s fair to say that you spend most of your career with the bigger players in the analytical and diagnostics industry. Why did you finally join a small company as CEO?«



MB

»The Chairman of Polyplus approached me with the idea and after a meeting with the representative of the main investor – a major French finance group called Crédit Mutuel-CIC – both supported my candidacy. I thought about it, liked the idea of working in a small and more entrepreneurial environment, and joined.«



ML

»Mark, tell us something about Polyplus, what’s the business of the company?«



MB

»Our business is producing transfection reagents, i.e., reagents that can be used to bring nucleic acids and many other bio-molecules into living cells. And at the moment we are 25 people with the majority of our product lines produced in-house and going to customers for research applications.«



ML

»What are other uses at the moment and who is doing the rest of the production for you?«



MB

»We also have a number of customers worldwide who are using Polyplus transfection reagents and system for clinical research. We use contract manufacturing for the production of GMP versions of our transfection reagents. And we are hoping for some clinical customers, using our reagents, to commercialise their drugs which will use Polyplus’ transfection technology to reach the cells affected by the disease.«



ML

»I suppose it is the “usual thing” with being included in processes for products that reach commercial markets: it does take a longer time and an investment in quality and documentation, but if you finally are included in the regulatory dossier, it is not so easy to switch away from your product?«



MB

»That’s it, and there are a lot of companies going after the same markets, and if you are a small player like Polyplus, you need to have the financial muscles or the right partners with the critical mass to be successful.«



ML

»How about your IP position?«



MB

»Oh, Polyplus owns a number of patents, and in our core technology areas I consider us having a very strong IP position. The IP we own mostly originates from three sources: the French research organisation CNRS, the University of Strasbourg and from within our company.«



ML

»Tell us a bit about the market structure in the area of transfection technologies.«



MB

»There’s a lot of competition in the transfection market and there are several commonly used technologies around. Polyplus is exclusively active in chemically mediated delivery of nucleic acids and bio-molecules into mammalian and insect cell lines. Other approaches include using viruses, electroporation or gene guns, i.e., shooting the genes into the cell. Among the major competitors are firms like Qiagen, Roche Life Science and Thermo Fisher; all firms that have considerably larger resources than Polyplus but for whom transfection is only a small part of their total product portfolio.«



ML

»So, Mark, what is your strategy with regard to positioning Polyplus’ products and technologies in the market?«



MB

»We clearly have a niche approach, focussing on our very specific approach to  bio-molecule transfection into cells. As stated above, this is using chemistry, which is at the same time very efficient and lower cost. We focus on a customer segment where our clients are primarily research scientists, either in academic institutions, non-profit research organisations or in industry such as bio-pharma or biotech. In addition, we serve customers who are also trying to move into clinical research often based on therapeutics start-ups or small/medium sized bio-pharma companies. At the moment, our own marketing clearly focuses on delivering a cost-effective transfection system to research scientists.«



ML

»Okay, apart from your own sales activities, Polyplus is also very active – and I suppose this a very rare policy for such a small firm – with regard to assuring that your IP position leads to revenues, either in the form of license royalties or product purchases from Polyplus?«



MB

»Yes, that’s right. We consider our IP position and respective revenues core areas of our business model. Accordingly we put a lot of focus and as many resources as we can manage into this.«



ML

»How many people at Polyplus work on enforcing your IP and generating respective revenues?«



MB

»We have one full time position dealing with IP issues, in addition the Business Development Director and me, as CEO, are investing a considerable part of our time with regard to these issues. We also have two external lawyers working with us. So we might end up with about 2.5 full-time people working on these matters.«



ML

»This would represent about 10% of your workforce?!«



MB

»Nearly, as I included the external consultants. But actually this is not really a question of “per cent of your workforce” for me. To have about two FTEs working on IP issues is the absolute minimum, however many – or in this case more precisely: few – people you may have within your company!«



ML

»How does your strategy towards enforcing your IP work in the real world?«



MB

»Over the years we have established a routine but flexible process to address this. It all starts with looking at publications, patent applications and other documents in the public domain and visiting conferences to see posters and listen to oral presentations. This way we detect research results that may have used our patented technologies. The second step is to review these research projects in-house and to evaluate whether the scientists have used our commercial products – which are supplied with an implied license for use in transfection applications – and to evaluate whether it makes sense to write to the researchers or the leadership of the respective company, to ask what technology or potentially counterfeit product they may have used. If we decide to do so, we always develop a very well researched, written and individualised letter. And if I can give you one advice: always write a custom letter to a specific person in the organisation, never use “one-size-fits-all”, “to-whom-it-may-concern” standardised letters!«



ML

»Let me ask you one thing in between: how can those organisations use your technology, when they don’t buy the reagents from you? Are there other rogue traders, supplying illegal reagents? Or which way do they get hold on those reagents?«



MB

»You can indeed “home-brew” our reagents, by simply buying – in a total legal way – the building blocks for our reagents from companies like Sigma-Aldrich and then put it all together yourself in the laboratory.«



ML

»Let’s assume there can be three types of researchers using your technology without taking a license, first, those who do know about your technolgy and your IP and use it nonetheless, then those who know about your technology but are not aware of your IP; and finally those who “invented” it themselvers without knowing about both, technology and IP before. When you look at your past experience, how much researchers belong to which category?«



MB

»The last option is most unlikely, as the technology is well known to everybody in the field, so this does not really happen. People being unaware of our IP position may be 10 to 20%, but the great majority of reserachers uses it knowlingly, just hoping that they are not held responsible. And in case they get caught, well, you know it's the attitude of “the organisation will buy this for me”.«



ML

»Okay, Mark, go on, what’s the next step after writing these individualised letters? I mean, disregarding all the general trouble and discussions we talked about in the first part of this interview.«



MB

»Basically, we try to reach a deal. This may be a license, or this may be a supply agreement or a combination of both. From my point of view we offer a real open and fair implied license, so that you can do nearly everything you want with our reagents in your research and also with your results, if you purchase the reagents directly from Polyplus.«



ML

»How many deals did you you close in the past?«



MB

»Well, Polyplus started going after their IP and trying to reach license or supply agreements in 2009. And since then, we have signed about 20 license and 10 supply agreements.«



ML

»Could you elaborate on the deal volume?«



MB

»This comes down to about $4m paid license fees and about $1m in sales.«



ML

»Per year?«



MB

»No, for the whole period.«



ML

»And what maximum market potential could be reached by Polyplus-transcfection?«



MB

»I think this should be in the range of €16m per year.«



ML

»Mark, before we move on to the third and last part of our interview, which will again discuss the topic in a more general way, could you summarise the basic conclusions from your own experience with regard to enforcing Polyplus’ IP during the last four years?«



MB

»I’d gladly do so. First of all, you need a good and attractive technology and a very solid IP position. Secondly, you need the backing of the owners/investors of your company. Third, you need a critical mass of people working on IP-related tasks. As we discussed above, a minimum would be two FTEs. Fourth, it would be very, very helpful to have senior level management on-board with experience in big industry; but maybe external consulting can make up for this. Furthermore you should make reasonable propositions to potential licensees, i.e., offer good and realistic deals to your customers. And lastly you must always stay very polite and professional. However churned up your inner emotions sometimes might get, always stay calm and polite, and this definitely includes writing professional and factual, customised letters to each and every counter-party.«



ML

»Mark, thank you very much for sharing your personal experience of Polyplus with us; I am sure this is quite an encouraging and enlightening example for many other small companies.«




------------

The final Part 3 of this interview with Mark Bloomfield will be published in the next issue of the [LSE] Interview series.

The first part of the interview can be found online at
http://www.life-sciences-europe.com/newsletter/lse-newsletter-510001s1.html






The interview took place on Tuesday, 13 January 2015 [with some additions on Friday, 30 January 2015], via phone.





© 2015 by [iito] Business Intelligence


   
Record changed: 2016-01-10

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