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Innovation in Microfluidics is booming – and HP is looking towards life sciences

PatSnap’s latest Innovation Report analyses the state of innovation in Synthetic Biology

PatSnap, the world’s leading provider of research and development (R&D) analytics, has today launched its Synthetic Biology Innovation Report 2018. Based on PatSnap’s global R&D dataset, the 30-page report has uncovered major trends relating to the present and future state of synthetic biology, finding amongst other things, that microfluidics is a booming area for investment.

Synthetic biology is one of the world’s fastest growing fields of science, with applications across chemicals, pharmaceuticals, energy, biotech and agriculture. Looking at the IP data of modern innovators in the Synthetic Biology industry reveals signals about how this market, its players, and their technologies, are evolving.

With the global market size expected to reach US$38.7 billion by 2020, PatSnap’s report found that Microfluidics is the macro trend to watch in this area of scientific innovation, accounting for the largest quantity of patent filings and lawsuits. This means that there are numerous opportunities for innovators to commercialise their inventions in adjacent markets, and for innovators in adjacent markets to catalyse progress in synthetic biology with their innovations.

The report also found that HP Inc. appeared in the top ten companies patenting around enabling technologies – technologies that enable the rapid development of subsequent derivative technologies – and only recently began accelerating filings in this area. 2018 has already seen HP exceed its filings in any previous year. It is an established innovator in printer technology – a popular application area for microfluidics – however as the report relates to Synthetic Biology, this activity from HP reflects its exploration into life sciences.

PatSnap’s Innovation Report also found 24,070 INPADOC patent family documents (72,999 individual patent documents) relating to Synthetic Biology, which are owned by the following:









Of these patent owners, the top companies—based on size of patent portfolio—are:

  1. University of California (472 patents)
  2. Novozymes (343 patents)
  3. Harvard University (301 patents)
  4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (189 patents)
  5. Agilent Technologies (167 patents)
  6. Samsung Electronics (165 patents)
  7. Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique aka The French National Centre for Scientific Research (132 patents)
  8. California Institute of Technology (112 patents)
  9. Philips (108 patents)
  10. Scripps Research Institute (107 patents)

Excluding patent offices serving multiple countries, PatSnap’s analysis shows the leading countries are the US, which has 594 INPADOC families (25% of all filings), and China, with 335 INPADOC families (14% of all filings).

China’s patents are focused on the environmental and agricultural applications of synthetic biology — with terms like “waste water,” “soil remediation” and “degrading bacteria” frequently occurring. Meanwhile, American patent filings seem to have a broader commercial or practical focus.

Timi Olotu, Data Analyst at PatSnap, said that “the main challenges for the United States are the protection of its biotech IP from theft by Chinese agents and less restricted access to the blossoming Chinese market. But maybe the key lies in partnerships — as seen with Google and Tencent, in the US-China AI battle — rather than confrontations.”

The report also identified the most litigated Synthetic Biology concepts — i.e. the concepts most commonly discussed in patents involved in court cases—including:

  • DNA (digital polymerase chain reaction, DNA synthesis, nucleotide base and protein or polypeptide)
  • Microfluidic devices (incorporation, substrate layers, analysis, control systems, varied channel depths, cover layer and body structure)
  • Cell (peptides, plant cells, recombinant cells, DNA sequencing, dehydrogenase)

This is a brief summary of some findings from the full report published by PatSnap. To find out more, download PatSnap’s Synthetic Biology Innovation Report, which analyses patent data to uncover trends, breakthroughs and key companies innovating in Synthetic Biology.

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