#WeWontRest in the race to fight disease

Every April 26th, we celebrate World Intellectual Property Day – the occasion to remind ourselves about the role of intellectual property in fostering innovation and creativity and why we should all care about it.

The theme chosen by WIPO this year, “IP and Sports – Reach for Gold”, may therefore not seem obvious. Neither may the contribution of IP to sports… Until you think about all the great inventions that lie behind virtually every aspect of sports: new generation sportswear or equipment, new technologies which allow professional athletes or Sunday joggers to track their performance; which enable millions of people to watch the Olympics simultaneously and share this thrill at the sight of their favourite athlete or team going “faster, stronger, higher!”, towards the finish line. Science and technologies are everywhere to give athletes the best chances and to give their fans, the best experience of sports.

Sports and biopharmaceutical research share that objective: the ability to go “faster, stronger, higher” is exactly the chance we want to give to patients in every aspect of their life. This is our finish line. To that purpose, biopharmaceutical research feels very much like a sport of its own, like a new kind of triathlon which would combine a marathon, an obstacle race and pole vaulting.

The discovery and development of new drugs is a long and complicated process. Every new treatment starts with the spark of an idea and we have to protect and nurture that spark until it can transform the lives of patients. First, we need to train, to develop our research muscles. How? Like in any sport, perseverance is key. We need the patience and the endurance to examine all possible solutions that could help patients fight their disease. We need to go beyond failures and critically, to learn from them. We also need to take risks – this means challenging assumptions and paradigms and reach better outcomes, day after day until that one day when our dive is finally splash-less, when we score every basket, when we finally win against the disease.

In our “sport”, making it to the podium means making a difference for patients, enabling them to live the life they want to live, to choose the sport they want to do, like Jérôme. He was nine years old when he had his first epileptic seizure and it didn’t stop him from holding the Guinness world record for the longest uninterrupted swim (80km) as well as the European record in 24-hour swimming. These are the only medals that matter to us.

Sports and pharmaceutical research also have in common that they are about team work. Scientists must work together, within a company and very often collaborate with other companies and public research organisations. They must also work with a broader range of stakeholders including, critically, patients, but also health care professionals, regulators and payers, to ensure that, by the time we reach the finish line, we can actually bring valuable solutions to the many challenges patients face every day.

In this journey, a strong intellectual property system is vital to ensure pharmaceutical companies can continue taking the risks to do better, playing in teams, and more than anything, that we can continue, with humility and confidence, making a difference for patients.

#ForTheChance to be the athletes they want to be.

Jean-Christophe Tellier

Jean-Christophe Tellier joined UCB in 2011. He became UCB’s Chief Executive Officer on January 1, 2015 after having...
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