Medical Research Future Fund Webinar – 15 November 2022

In this video, Dr Masha Somi and Mr Lachlan Lo provide information about the Medical Research Future Fund and how to effectively manage intellectual property.

51:16

MASHA SOMI:
Welcome to the November 2022 Medical Research Future Fund webinar. I'd like to begin by acknowledging the Traditional Owners of the lands we're all joining from today. I join from Ngunnawal country. I also pay my deepest respects to Elders, past, present and emerging and acknowledge our First Nations colleagues who are with us here today. I'm very pleased to have Lachlan Lo from IP Australia join us here today. Lachlan is a Senior Patent Adviser at IP Australia. He will talk about how to effectively manage IP as a researcher and the resources that are available through IP Australia. I'll then provide some information on MRFF program updates before Lachlan and I take some questions.

In the MRFF, we have a strong interest in research translation, particularly commercialisation. We're, therefore, interested in the generation of IP, how it's managed and how it can benefit Australian researchers and the community. We support the framework set out in the national principles and our guidelines explicitly request information about IP and outline our expectation that grantees are to consider IP protection and use through the projects that we fund. At the same time, we want to make sure that the Australian community can benefit from the outcomes of research that's funded through the Medical Research Future Fund. And while we don't take ownership of IP, we do require in some instances the inclusion of what we call Commonwealth Commercialisation clauses. The purpose of the clauses is to create an obligation for the commercialising company to sell the final product to the Australian Government at market terms. That means the Australian Government is at the front of the purchasing queue, however, must purchase the product as it is marketed and at market cost. The clauses in the process though require a design to be relatively straightforward to implement through contractual negotiations, and that's that we require certain clauses to be passed on as obligations as contracts are negotiated between parties. We are in the early days of these clauses and are looking for ways to make the process as streamlined as possible, and also to ensure that they don't create any difficulties for grantees as they look to commercialise their research outcomes.

Having briefly touched on IP in the context of MRFF grants, I now welcome Lachlan Lo, and he will tell you more about intellectual property and the work of IP Australia.

LACHLAN LO:
Thank you, Masha. Good afternoon, everybody. As Masha has introduced me, my name is Lachlan Lo. I'm a Senior Patent Examiner at IP Australia. I've juggled between a few different examination sections at IP Australia, but the one that I'm most familiar with, fortunately, is medical devices. Today, I'm joined by another one of our examiners, Nicolas Alcaraz, who is a pharmaceutical examiner. He's going to help me field some of the questions on pharmaceuticals at the end of the presentation, because although I've got pretty good medical device knowledge, my experience with chemistry reaches as far as first-year university.

So, I'm going to be talking today on how intellectual property can make your research a success, giving you a brief overview of the IP system and how it relates to your research and commercialising that research.

So first, what is intellectual property? Intellectual property, or IP, as I'll be referring to it for the rest of the presentation, refers to, essentially, the legally enforceable rights that you get from coming up with ideas. You can also call this the property of your mind or the exclusive knowledge that you've made. Australia's IP laws provide a legal framework to protect the ideas that you come up with through IP rights. There are seven IP rights, four of which are administered by IP Australia and three which are not. The four that we administer are patents, trademarks, designs and plants breeder’s rights. I'm sure at least some of those will be in some way familiar to you. There are also three rights that we don't administer, copyright, trade secrets and circuit layouts. Of these, copyright is probably the most well-known. But you're here for really one of these, in particular. It's patents, my speciality. A patent is essentially the IP right for an invention, the legally enforceable right for a device, a substance, a method or process. As a consequence, these patents must all be new, inventive and useful. And I'll talk more on that in a second.

Patents last for, in general, up to 20 years. So any invention lasts for 20 years. There is a special clause for pharmaceuticals, which can last up to 25 years, but that's not an automatic feature. Pharmaceuticals last up to 20 years and you can apply to have that extended in certain circumstances.

Some statistics for you. In 2021, there were 37,397 Australian patent filings. What that means is that in 2021, into IP Australia, we received that many filings. Not all of them were from Australians. In fact, you see only 9% were Australian applicants, which means that 91% of our filings came from overseas, either directly or through other means, which I will touch upon later. That doesn't seem like many from Australian applicants, but there was an increase in filings from 2020 by 11%. We found that over the pandemic, a lot more people got to creating. And so you'll see that 94% of these patents were filed by organisations and 6% were filed by individuals, which really is quite impressive considering that organisations obviously have the power of multiple people and money behind them and individuals are just coming up with these ideas on their own. Now, let's talk about some of the benefits of patents. There are benefits both for the holder of the right, the person who comes up with or owns the idea, and also for the public. So, for the right holder, you get the exclusive right to commercially exploit your invention. That means making it, selling it, so on. Doing this, you will be able to prevent other people from infringing upon your idea. So prevent them from commercialising the same invention that you have created. You block competition from entering the area by stopping any patents that they can file. You can also make money directly off the patent itself. You can licence it to other companies for them to create on your behalf or you can sell the patent to those companies if you don't really have any plans of commercialising the invention, but you've still come up with it and want to protect it. And finally, having lots of patents in your portfolio can help attract investors and secure more research funding. It's kind of like, it's like a way of saying, I've made all these inventions, I can make more. For the public, though, there are great benefits. So one of the agreements of a patent, so to speak, is that the inventor discloses everything to do with their idea in order to receive protection. So, as a result, the public gets to hear about your research, how the invention works, and the innovations that have been made in a certain field. This contributes to the scientific knowledge of the area, encourages more R&D and helps accelerate and develop technological advancements. For example, you might not know of an area of tech until a patent comes out, but you look at it and go, hold on a second, I have an idea about this. And then you make an innovation and file a new patent and the process continues, advancing the technology overall.

Now, let's talk about what you need to actually get a patent. For an idea to be patentable, it must be novel or new. It can't have been done before, because otherwise there's no benefit to the public in disclosing something additional. It also must be inventive, which means that even if it's new compared to what exists, it has to develop beyond that existing basis of prior art in a way that somebody familiar with the technology wouldn't routinely arrive at. You have to come up with new ways of innovating over what exists. Finally, it has to be useful, which means it has to have a specific, credible and substantial use. What, in essence, this means is that it needs to work and it needs to achieve the benefit you're claiming it to. I'm sorry, as a rule, this means no perpetual energy machines.

Now, let's talk about some things that can be patented. A device has lots of components, usually. If you break each component down into an integer, then you could foreseeably have a patent on each of those integers. So, the example that we have here in the slides relates to a heart monitor. Think about all the things that go into a heart monitor. You've got a user interface, software, the battery that powers it, memory storage, power management, integrated circuits, wireless or internet connectivity. All together that makes a heart monitor, but each of these things can be improved upon or can be changed, and therefore, can be protected under a patent. And so this one heart monitor that I'm talking about has seven different patents, all involved in how it works. Conversely, though, there are some things that can't be patented, such as human beings or the biological processes for their generation. Then other things like artistic creations, mathematical models or plants, schemes or purely mental processes like business models. You can't have a patent on a way of selling medical devices, for example, because you're not really innovating on an invention. You're just coming up with a way of selling things. This is really important in the medical device space, the whole human beings and the biological processes for their generations. It's also important to consider the next point on this slide, which is that each country has different requirements for what can and can't be patented. For example, in Australia and the US, you can patent methods of surgery and medical treatments, but you can't do this in Europe or Japan. So, we're going to be talking about filing in different countries later. But if your grand plan for commercialisation involves going to Europe, you have to keep this in mind. You could invent a new scalpel, and in Australia, you could be patenting the use of this scalpel in a surgery, but you can't do that in Europe, all you can do is patent the actual scalpel itself.

That being said, merely getting a patent on your one invention and calling it a day is not enough. There's a lot more that goes into commercialisation with IP management. So collaboration between businesses or inventors is key to get your invention off the ground. Before I go too much further into this, let's think, again, about the heart rate monitor. I'd said that there were potentially seven different patents involved in that heart rate monitor. If you come up with one of the patents, you can't sell the heart rate monitor because you still need the licencing of six more. And that's where you have to collaborate in IP. This can result in working relationships between people who own different IP rights in order to grant usage in certain circumstances. It can involve confidentiality agreements before beginning the IP process, figuring out what secrets can and can't be shared. All sorts of things like that. Essentially, what I'm trying to say here is to consider how your commercialisation strategy will change depending on who you need to talk to, who owns what patent, and what kind of pressure you will have in the field upon getting a patent or other form of IP right.

On the topic of commercialisation, we have a lot of tools that we put together. Have a quick read of this, but I'm going to be giving out the links to some of these at the end of the presentation. They can all help, but there's a few in particular that I would point out, being the patents case management for SMEs, or Small-to-Medium Enterprises, where IP Australia matches you with a subject matter expert who will assist you through the early to intermediate stages of patent prosecution.

Now, let's talk about a success story. So, this is the Recell spray-on skin. In 1999, a Perth-based plastic surgeon, Professor Fiona Wood, patented her skin repair technique, which you can see on the right here. It's essentially a little syringe with a nozzle at the top, you spray it and it can cause a burn victim's skin, their injured skin, to regrow. It uses their own skin cells to have this spray-on solution, which won't be rejected by the body. It had a key role in treating burns victims in the 2002 Bali bombings, saving 28 lives. And through this patent and the commercialisation, licencing and development of it subsequently, the royalties have been used to fund research, education, innovation and it's been used now on more than 10,000 patients around the world.

Now, earlier in the presentation, I spoke about how a patent needs to be new and inventive. And you might have wondered, but Lachlan, how am I going to know what's new and inventive? It's important when considering inventions and commercialisations to understand the field that already exists in terms of patent filings. And you do that by searching through patents. By performing a thorough research, you can find out whether you need to protect your idea, whether your idea already exists, what innovations you've made will actually fit into the field as a whole. You can also find out in the preliminary stages who owns what kind of IP, who the major players are in the field you want to break into, and you can also obtain some information on your competitors based on where they're filing, how they're filing and the information they're disclosing. When it comes to searching, there are a few tools that we recommend. So I'll wait on this page for a second to allow you to have a look at this QR code, but this will link you to AusPat, it is our Australian patent search tool. It's a way of allowing you to search through all filed Australian patents. Anything that we do at IP Australia with regards to patent applications, examination, searching, it's all available for the public record through AusPat. So this is a really useful way of finding out in Australia what the trends are, what has been submitted, what is being processed and so on.

But me personally, when I start a search on a patent examination case, I usually just go to Google Patents. It's essentially Google for patents. If you just type that into Google, you’ll find your way there. This is a database of all the patents that have been filed and published internationally. It can be a bit noisy sometimes, and it's not necessarily restricted to Australia, but it can be a really good way of finding out what's going on internationally or just putting in a quick Google search for a topic of interest and finding all the patents that have been published.

Now, before I touch on this slide, I'm going to plant the flag, so to speak, with respect to the questions that I'm going to be asked later on, because we're going to have a Q&A session. At IP Australia, unfortunately, we can't really give advice on specific circumstances or specific questions that you may have. And our go-to answer is usually referral to a patent attorney. So, we recommend that you seek professional assistance before applying for patent and during the patent application process. Patent attorneys provide advice regarding patenting and IP, they also provide advice on IP strategy and the best way to apply, given your ideas. They will help you prepare and file patent applications and provide representation if any issues arise, with regards to the granting of the patent or any opposition that might come from a third party. They also provide advice in relation to patent infringement. So we usually say it's a good idea to at least speak to a patent attorney at some point so that you can understand a bit better the waters of IP rights and patents a bit better.

Now, this is a very important thing that I have to discuss, which is disclosure. Again, I'm going to refer back, a patent needs to be new and inventive.

When I say new, I mean it has to be something that the public has never seen before, the public has never seen before. So if you give disclosure of your invention, maybe in a research paper or at a conference about the things that you're working on, then the public knows about your invention. And unfortunately, there's little that we can do to remedy that situation. We highly recommend not to go public too soon before securing some protections so that you're able to continue to get your patent. There is something called a grace period, you have about a year after your public disclosure of your invention to continue to file for a patent. But it's a bit of a headache, and it's better to just plan for this situation in advance regardless. There are a few ways to maintain protection of your ideas and still get the word out on what you're working on. One of those is through a confidentiality or non-disclosure agreement. This is a legal contract, which essentially guarantees two parties to silence between each other, sorry, silence to the rest of the world, about a secret that has been shared between each other.

You would all know about non-disclosure agreements. One of the big ones would be a combination of trade secret and confidentiality in Coca-Cola. No one knows the recipe because they never file a patent for it, they never let anyone talk about it. And it's a trade secret. They kind of split up parts of the recipe between people, and those people are not able to interact or tell anybody else. Another way of protecting yourself from inadvertent disclosure is through a provisional application. So, the provisional application is essentially a landmark in the ground, saying that you want to get a patent, but you're not ready to file for a complete application yet. You give some preliminary information, which is not publicly disclosed, and you have 12 months from that point to decide if you want to continue with a complete application. When you do file the complete application, you'll only be assessed from the point at which you file your provisional application. The provisional application doesn't give you any kind of protection, but it does give you that initial date. So that you can really lock away the market for your patent. When you finally do go on to file a complete application, this is what gives you patent protection. It is assessed by examiners at IP Australia, and then once you get given your patent, you'll have the ability to take, sorry, you'll gain the ability to take legal action against others using your invention within Australia. Something to note is that when you file your complete application, you file it publicly. So regardless of the outcome, the world is going to know about your invention following the complete application.

As I touched on earlier, an Australian patent is only for Australia, it doesn't give you protection outside of Australia. If you want to file overseas, you have a few different options, which is you can either file individually to each country that you want to gain protection in, or you can apply through WIPO, the World International Patent Office’s, International Patent Cooperation Treaty System.

I'll touch on the second one in a second, but with the first one, I would remind you, if you are applying separately to multiple different countries, you want to be careful about the times at which you do this. If you get an Australian patent but have not begun any proceedings in the US, you might run into problems with them using the Australian patent as proof that you have disclosed your invention. When it comes to the Patent Cooperation Treaty System, there is no such thing as a universal or international patent. You can't get protection in every single country based on just one single application. But what the PCT, Patent Corporation Treaty System, does, is it gives you an international opinion, which from that point you can branch off into every other country. So it's like filing the provisional application in Australia, but just internationally.

Here are the costs for getting a patent. So, I'll let you read through this yourself. But you can see it's broken up into international, so going through the PCT, or standard, going through Australia. PCT, obviously, has a lot more money, and that's because as part of the PCT, you get an international search, and you can have multiple opinions on this. It's essentially relating to the examination cost in applying through that international pathway.

There's something that I will note, which is that annual fees are also required in Australia to keep your patent alive, so to speak, even once it's been accepted. You pay these upkeep costs and it stays active so that you can enforce the legal rights. Included in this table... Sorry, not included in this table are attorney fees, which can be different and vary based on the attorney firm that you go to.

When it comes to legal enforcement of your patent, if you find that your invention is being used or copied by somebody else, it's up to you to take action to nip that in the bud. IP Australia does not police IP rights or launch legal proceedings on your behalf. This is why it's useful to talk to a patent attorney who can help you with that process.

Now, I'm just going to go through a spotlight of the medical device market. There are lots of things which are classified as medical devices. You can see them all here. You have highly electrical things like neurostimulators or medical imaging devices, you have very chemical things like tissue engineering, bioreactors, or you can have very mechanical things like respiratory devices or prostheses. So, it's really a wide blend. And so, at IP Australia, our medical device section contains a lot of people from very different backgrounds, physics, chemistry, mechanical, there's a lot of space in here for people to apply for patents.

If you ever look at this picture of just a typical hospital bed, you can see just how many different patents can go into medical care. You've got the monitor system. You've got a trolley or a spray bottle. You've got the bed itself or the mattress. You've got gas tubes. I'm pretty sure the patent would have run out, but there are lights above the bed, there's the pillow, there's wheels on the bed, so on and so forth. The list just keeps going on and on and on. Who knows? Maybe the next slide will have a patent that someone from here makes and gets into the hospitals.

In Australia, in 2021, you can see there were quite a few patents related to medical technologies or pharmaceuticals, so, bordering in the 3,000s for those medical technologies, biotechnologies, even computer technologies related to medical devices. And by and large, this will increase sharply, going into 2021 from 2020. And we've really noticed over the last few years that that trend isn't going to slow down. There is a continually increase in demand for medical device patents.

Some of the big players in Australia are these top five. So Aristocrat Technologies takes the number one spot, but there are two on this list, which I deal with quite frequently, CSIRO, which is number two, and ResMed, which is number four. So those both have medical device adjacent patents.

Some of the key regions for medical device patents are here: Canada, the US and Europe - big ones - China, Japan, Korea, and Australia - yay. Each of these different countries will have different rules and regulations for applying for patents. So you'd have to do your research ahead of time, but they all are quite big in the medical device world.

So, as we get to the end of this presentation, here are some important takeaways. The biggest one is just to consider IP management early, consider what do you need to do, consider your protections, consider who you need to talk to, who you need to make agreements with. When you register for your IP, it will be published online, so get ready for that as well. Your invention needs to stay a secret until you apply. You'll also need to consider what countries you want to seek protection in and how their rules differ from Australia. You can visit ipaustralia.gov.au to search, read case studies, and find checklists, guides, and toolkits on how to apply, not just for patents but the other IP rights which I mentioned at the start of this presentation. And finally, we recommend that you seek professional advice in the form of an attorney. They know what they're doing in terms of filing and how to get to acceptance, so it will be helpful for you to hear that kind of advice.

I've got two more slides with education and resources, and I'm just going to leave you on this page for a second if you want to get any of these QR codes. I'll also take the time to, again, mention that we're going to be doing a Q&A session at the end of this overall presentation. Feel free to ask any questions that you have based on this presentation. You can ask about medical devices. You can ask about pharmaceuticals because I have someone here to help me. This will be in a moderated environment, so we're going to have somebody talking through each question and passing them off to either me or Masha. Here are some more resources for you just on how to get your patents global, the commercialisation of patents, and reports on the different trends in patents.

But otherwise, that is all I have to say for my presentation. So thank you so much for paying attention, and I'll hand it back to you, Masha.

DR MASHA SOMI:
Thank you so much, Lachlan. And so, I'll quickly move through a program update so we can get to the questions. I'm sure you'll have loads for Lachlan. So, you may have seen that the 2022-2024 Australian Medical Research and Innovation Priorities came into force on the 6th of November 2022. The Australian Medical Research Advisory Board consulted to develop these priorities in late 2021 as part of developing and establishing the Australian Medical Research and Innovation Strategy for the period 2021 to 26. And some of you or all of you may have seen that the October 2022 Budget confirmed that $650 million will be made available in 22-23 and future financial years through the Medical Research Future Fund.

And just quickly about our Consumer Reference Panel, we established the panel in April 2022 and it's really to support us to build on the steps we'd already taken to bring consumer views and experiences into the MRFF. We have a wonderful group of consumers on the panel, led by John Stubbs, bringing incredible diversity of perspectives and experiences. Information about the Consumer Reference Panel is available on the MRFF website including some interviews with our members. The Consumer Reference Panel helped us with a refresh of a MRFF assessment criteria recently, and I'll talk about that next. The panel is now focused on providing advice on what best practice consumer involvement in research looks like. And they'll also be providing us advice on MRFF processes, including around assessment, to make sure that they are effectively supporting and promoting consumer involvement in research.

You may have seen that the most recent MRFF grant opportunities contain new assessment criteria. And we've also reviewed the scoring matrices that support the assessment criteria. And we hope that applicants and assessors will find the assessment criteria easier to use in seeking and assessing grant applications for MRFF funding. We're really grateful to the Consumer Reference Panel for their advice on the assessment criteria, and also to the expert advisory panels that supported the MRFF missions over the last couple of years as they provided insights and advice that was also used in the 'refresh' process. There's a resource on the MRFF website that gives an overview of the changes that have been made through the assessment criteria.

In terms of next steps, and implementing the new assessment criteria, we're looking to strengthen the involvement of consumers in the research design process, and we'll be working with the Consumer Reference panel on that work, and also strengthen the involvement of consumers in research assessment. And we'll be working with our grant hubs to look at how our assessment processes work and, particularly, the involvement of consumers. So, for example, we're looking at the moment to bring more consumer voices into the assessment process, particularly from the priority groups that have been identified in the new assessment criteria. And I'd just like to note that the priority populations include those that were identified by our Board in the 2022 to 24 Priorities, and that includes people from rural, regional and remote backgrounds and our First Nations people. And finally, on assessment, I'd really like to acknowledge and thank all of the members of our MRFF Grant Assessment Committees, we would not be able to deliver the MRFF without the support of our independent assessors. So, each year, we list the assessors that have participated in Grant Assessment Committee, and the 2022 list is now available on the MRFF website.

We've had some a lot of activity in the Million Minds Mental Health Research Mission. You may have seen that there's a consultation that's opened about the refreshed roadmap for the Mission and also a new implementation plan that sets out an investment strategy for the Million Minds Mission. And by way of background, $125 million has been provided over ten years for the Mission, and around half of that has already been dispersed through 18 research projects. The University of Technology Sydney was contracted to undertake an independent review of the Mission's progress to date, so what activity had occurred over the first five years. The review found that overall the Mission's investments aligned with the existing roadmap and that the funded projects are making a contribution to the MRFF Measures of Success and the impact measures. The review did identify opportunities for the remaining five years of the Mission, and these were shared with the second Million Minds Mission Expert Advisory Panel to support their work in refreshing the roadmap and developing a new implementation plan for the Mission. And the report of that review is available on the MRFF website.

Professor Maree Teesson chairs the second Million Minds Mission Expert Advisory Panel, and the panel is currently consulting on the roadmap and implementation plan. Professor Teesson hosted a webinar and will host the meeting, later this week, with international experts to seek their views on the proposed investment strategy for the remainder of the Mission over the next five years. You're able to make a submission about your thoughts about the roadmap and implementation plan by visiting the health consultation hub site, and submissions close on the 1st of December 2022. And consistent with the Second Medical Research Future Fund 10-Year Investment Plan, a grant opportunity is expected to be run in late 2022 to disburse funds from the Mission that are available in the 22-23 financial year.

You may have seen that in some of our grant opportunities, there's been an option to apply for innovation grants, and these are small grants designed to support project teams to build evidence of the feasibility of a research project. The grants are offered to promising projects that are not successful in receiving funding through those grant opportunities. The delegate in the department makes the decision about which grants are awarded an innovation grant based on the advice of the Grant Assessment Committee. And you can see on the slide that we've used them recently to support projects led and delivered by First Nations researchers, that was through the first grant opportunity there on improving the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers and babies, and also to support projects led and delivered by early to mid-career researchers, and that was through the Dementia, Ageing, and Aged Care grant opportunity.

Just a couple quick program updates, you may have seen that we published two MRFF policies recently, the first on variations to grant agreements, and the second one outlining the department's position on the involvement of departmental staff in MRFF applications and grants. Both of these documents are available on our website. Also, based on feedback that we've received, we're working with Business Grants Hub on the application process and documentation for MRFF grants through that hub. In terms of our evaluation work, as I mentioned, we finalised our Million Minds Mental Health Mission review and we're working to finalise the review of the Brain Cancer Mission and also the evaluation of the Clinical Trials Activity Initiative. Please keep an eye out for a consultation process for the Brain Cancer Mission that will commence shortly. Finally, we're working to establish key performance indicators for the Medical Research Future Fund and expect to make more information available in 2023.

In terms of our communications efforts, you may have seen and can still continue to see the RAO webinar. It was our first one that we hosted in August, is still available on the MRFF website, so you can have a look at that. Please keep an eye out for MRFF projects that we feature on the website. And there sort of an effort that we're making to change the conversation around the MRFF to really focus on the great research that's been funded through the MRFF and not just talk about the dollars and cents, but really look at the great researchers and the great research that's in train and supported through the MRFF. And also just to alert that we'll be announcing new grant opportunities via an MRFF newsletter. And that's a shift from the use of media releases. So it's important to subscribe to the MRFF newsletter, so you are alerted to new funding opportunities.

So, in the next couple of slides, I'll give you some tips for engaging with the MRFF. Please let us know if you have concerns so that we're able to act on them. We're also really grateful for ideas, things that we could do different, things that we could improve on. So we know the world from our perspective, and we're keen to hear the world from your perspective and learn from that. The establishment of the Consumer Reference Panel is a signal of our focus at the moment. So please think about how you're involving consumers in your research and how you can build ongoing and longer-term relationships with consumers. And please contribute to our consultations. The Million Minds Mission consultation is currently open, and we are looking to consult on the Brain Cancer Mission review shortly.

Please keep connected, read our newsletters, listen to the webinars, invite us to conferences, webinars, and events. We're happy to give a presentation and give some more information about the MRFF. Please have a look at your media summaries that are submitted with applications, try to make them as exciting and engaging and easy to read as possible. That's the information that we use in the MRFF and also with our media teams to identify projects to feature and things like media releases and for visits and events with the ministers. And finally, please nominate for an MRFF Grant Assessment Committee.

So, thank you to everyone who has submitted questions. No questions at the moment. (LAUGHS). So if anybody would like to put through some questions, the team can try to collate them and ask either Lachlan or I to respond to them.

Bit too comprehensive?

I guess, Lachlan, I'm not sure if you've got anything else to add whilst we wait for questions?

LACHLAN LO:
Not particularly.

Feel free to engage with IP Australia on all of our social media, so we have LinkedIn, Twitter. We regularly give communications on how to best apply for IP rights or what to look out for, shortcomings, and so on.

SPEAKER:
So, I have a question. Why can't all MRFF opportunities be submitted through the NHMRC for simplicity?

DR MASHA SOMI:
Thank you. So, the process of identifying a hub for the MRFF involves a few different considerations. So, for example, there are certain grant opportunities that NHMRC doesn't run. So, all our infrastructure, grant opportunities go through Business Grants Hub, and that comes from a preference from NHMRC not to run those types of grants for the MRFF. We have a range of commercialisation grants, and they tend to involve different parts of the sector and so they will run through the Business Grants Hub. It's also a question of capacities. So in some instances, we just have a lot of work going through one or the other hub, and we just have to work with them to balance workloads across the two hubs.

SPEAKER:
There's another question. Will there be more MRFF opportunities announced before the end of the year?

DR MASHA SOMI:
I'm not able to give... well, I guess I'll flag that there would be one for the Million Minds or there's anticipated to be one for the Million Minds Mental Health Mission. There may be others. We're still resolving some processes with governments. Just to flag or highlight or indicate that we understand, have heard the feedback around close... very short opening and closing periods. And that advice is certainly being taken into account

So even if, with the exception of the Million Minds Mission, which I've indicated has got that time pressure of needing to open this year and have an outcome before the end of the financial year.

SPEAKER:
The next question. Is there a timeline for the announcement of outcomes of the early to mid-career researcher grant from earlier this year?

DR MASHA SOMI:
So, I think we indicated in the guidelines that the outcomes would be available in the fourth quarter of 2022. So we're still working towards an outcome in this quarter.

DR MASHA SOMI:
Last opportunity for questions, otherwise I might move to finish off with the last few slides.

SPEAKER:
We have a question for Lachlan.

What happens if an examiner sees my invention online by someone else but isn't patented yet?

LACHLAN LO:
OK, so I'm assuming that question means that there's no patent for an invention online, but it discloses something that you're trying to get patented for. The point of public disclosure, I guess, is that your invention has to be something the public has never seen before. So, even if there is an invention online which doesn't have a patent associated with it, it still...is a disclosure of an existing invention. And so, that would unfortunately count against you, which is why it's important to do a comprehensive search before you go through the patent process to see if anything like that is around.

SPEAKER:
Next question. How can we apply for innovation grants? Do we need to specify that we applying for innovation grants in the application?

DR MASHA SOMI:
So, a grant opportunity guideline will make it clear where an innovation grant is available. They're not available through all of the grant opportunities we run. They're only available in some. And so, you'll see in the grant opportunity guideline that an innovation grant is available and the steps that you would need to take in order to apply for one. With both hubs, it's usually to provide an additional short statement of what could be achieved with $200,000 over a 12-month period. And they're only considered and assessed in the case that a grant isn't assessed... doesn't end up being funded through the grant opportunity. So, the process will be outlined through the guidelines.

SPEAKER:
So, I have another question. The draft commercialisation plan deliverable for some schemes is only 60 days after the grant's start date. Given the late announcement for schemes this year and the time needed to put it together, can there be more guidance around what is required for the plan, eg length, amount of detail or given more time to submit it?

DR MASHA SOMI:
We can definitely take that feedback on board. I'd have to have a look at the specifics, but I appreciate the feedback and the advice around the complexity, and certainly, we'll have a look at that.

SPEAKER:
A question for Lachlan. Would discussion of an invention at a scientific conference be considered public disclosure?

LACHLAN LO:
The answer, unfortunately, is it depends. I would encourage, if you're going to a conference to inquire the type of recording or disclosure that the conference would have. So, under Australian law, if you're presenting at a conference and then a recording is made and posted online publicly, then, yes, that is disclosure of an invention. If you're presenting at a conference, there's no material that's published online, maybe it's all in person. There are no recordings that are published online. The only thing is someone's made a recording, saved it onto a hard drive somewhere, no, there's no public disclosure. It has to be in perpetuity. So, I'd have to be able to find it later for it to count.

SPEAKER:
Another question. Is a change being considered to the NHMRC rule that associate investigators cannot receive a salary in order to allow consumer AIs to be properly remunerated on MRFF grants?

DR MASHA SOMI:
So, that's something we'll certainly... can take you to the Consumer Reference Panel for a consideration. They're very interested in remuneration for consumers. The issue might come to how that remuneration occurs. So, for example, there isn't anything that precludes, at the moment, having consumers remunerated as direct research cost, so for their time to be compensated through that mechanism. So, certainly understand the issue around remuneration of consumers in research projects. The actual mechanism might be something to work through as well.

SPEAKER:
No more questions.

DR MASHA SOMI: No more questions. So, if that's OK, I might move to wrap up. Lachlan, any final comments or are you happy for me to close off the webinar?

LACHLAN LO:
Yes, I'll just say that if anyone wants to get in contact with me later to discuss patents, and I can't offer any advice but I'm happy to go over the basics or have a chat with you, they can feel free to contact me. Will they be receiving my contact details later or should I say them now?

SPEAKER:
There won't be your contact details shared, Lachlan, but people can contact via IP Australia, through the links that you've provided during the presentation.

LACHLAN LO:
Absolutely. Well, feel free to do that.

DR MASHA SOMI:
Thank you. Thanks, Lachlan.

So, just a quick reminder that we are continuously learning and listening, and hearing and seeking feedback so please keep it coming. And here are the ways that you can keep connected with the MRFF.

Thank you, all, for your time today. Thank you, particularly Lachlan, for coming and sharing your advice and wisdom with us. And thank you, all.

Video type:
Presentation
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Description:

This video is a recording of the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) webinar held on 15 November 2022. The webinar was hosted by Dr Masha Somi, Chief Executive Officer, Health and Medical Research Office. Our guest speaker was Mr Lachlan Lo, Senior Patent Examiner at IP Australia.

Topics include:

  • the MRFF and Intellectual Property
  • IP Australia: effectively managing intellectual property
  • MRFF program updates and news.

A question and answer session followed.

Read the webinar presentation.

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