‘My job? Accompany researchers during their research project'

May 24th 2018

Jean-Marc Brulet is one of the scientific advisors at ULB Technology Transfer Office (TTO). His speciality: intellectual property and patents. His area of expertise: life sciences.

A science advisor has two main missions. ‘First, I help researchers set up and launch their research project, that involves informing them of the different funding possibilities and helping them to compile their application file and defend it,’ explains Jean-Marc Brulet. ‘Then, I follow up on the project to look for patentable results (new molecules, techniques, technologies, etc.) and protect them.’

Getting a patent

In order to transfer an invention to a company that will use it, it must be protected. ‘A patent gives you the right to forbid others from using the invention without permission. In order to be granted this monopoly, you must prove to those in charge of delivering patents(1) that your invention is both original and inventive, i.e. that it goes beyond what is already available in that specific industry.’
This is a lengthy procedure, involving back-and-forth communication with the organisations involved. Jean-Marc Brulet helps the researchers answer official letters as well as any questions or issues raised by these organisations. His goal: convince examiners to deliver a patent.

A dynamic trio

The science advisor works with a business developer and a legal expert. Obtaining patents for a single invention in Europe, the United States, and Japan—the world's 3 main markets—implies a personal involvement of the inventor but also a financial commitment from the university and the laboratory. Not a decision that should be taken lightly! So the ‘business developer’ studies the technology potential, and the best way to implement it. ‘The University is not in it to use these technologies itself,’ reminds Jean-Marc. ‘In order to bring a invention to the market, you must either license it to an existing company, or create a spin-off company(2). In both cases, the legal expert is in charge of drawing up contracts between the various parties involved: researchers, businesses, investors, universities, etc.’

A University at the service of the community

Jean-Marc Brulet has been a science advisor at the TTO for ten years. He has a PhD in biology and has previously worked as a researcher, including on a vaccine for the human papillomavirus. ‘Unfortunately, I developed an allergy to mice!’ At that time, the Biopark was looking for a researcher who could specialise in intellectual property. Jean-Marc's profile is a fit, and so he embarks upon this adventure. ‘My work is all the more satisfying that I can see research that leads to exploitable results. Furthermore, using scientific discoveries for real-world applications is part of a mission that is dear to my heart: serving the community.

(1) The institutions that deliver patents (European Patent Office, US Patent and Trademark Office, etc.) offer protection only in the area over which they have jurisdiction.
(2) The term refers to an independent company created from an activity that previously existed within a university.