Veralox, McBee Moore & Vanik IP, and the Importance of Patent Protection

Intellectual property is the lifeblood of biopharmaceutical companies. Protection of that information is of paramount importance and it is one reason companies seek legal firms that specialize in intellectual property and patent protection.

Dave Maloney, Co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Veralox Therapeutics, said when the Frederick, Maryland-based company was formed, company leadership felt it was imperative to find legal representation that was highly experienced with patent law. Maloney, along with other co-founders Jeffrey Strovel, who serves as chief executive officer, and Matthew Boxer, Verlox’s chief operating officer, sought IP attorney recommendations from the Frederick Innovative Technology Center, where the company was housed. They sifted through several recommendations and agreed to hire McBee Moore & Vanik IP, LLC, which also has roots in Frederick.

“We wanted to work with someone local and we appreciated that three of their team members (McBee attorneys) were former patent examiners. They have a unique perspective on how to address any potential issues. They really know the ins and the outs,” Maloney said.

While not addressing specific patent issues related to Veralox’s pipeline, which includes VLX-1005, a first-in-class small molecule inhibitor of 12-lipoxygenase, for the treatment of heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (HIT), Maloney said McBee has expertly guided the company through the IP landscape. He did note that McBee handled the patent landscape related to the company’s licensing of its assets and is also helping the company with the filing for novel IP needs as well.

“They helped navigate all aspects of trademarks, previous IP and new IP,” Maloney noted.

“There are challenges left and right with IP. We’ve worked with multiple firms, but MMV (McBee Moore & Vanik) has a unique perspective. They’re a key component of our company.”

One of the keys to the success of McBee Moore & Vanik is the fact the majority of the law firm’s attorneys have advanced degrees beyond their own legal training. Nine of the firm’s attorneys have Ph.D.s in multiple disciplines and one has a medical degree. When handling patents that are associated with highly complex issues such as genetics, immunology and other areas, it’s critical to have attorneys who are trained in matters beyond the law, said Susan McBee, a partner at McBee Moore & Vanik.

She noted that the field of biotechnology involves broad use of knowledges and processes that go beyond biology. Because of that probability for overlap, McBee said it’s essential for companies in this field to have experts who can help navigate the intricacies involved with protecting the associated intellectual property.

“You have to have someone who understands it and studies it at the same level as the inventors,” McBee said.

McBee noted that companies spend an extraordinary amount of invested capital for the research and development of their assets. And for biotech and biopharma companies, like Veralox, that must all be conducted before the company can consider taking its asset to market.

For example, in June Veralox raised $16.6 million in a Series A financing round. Funds from the financing round will be used to support development of the company’s therapeutics that target 12-lipoxygenase, which is associated with the onset and progression of a range of serious diseases and conditions. That includes the lead candidate VLX-1005, which was awarded Orphan Drug Designation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in January of this year. VLX-1005 is currently in Phase I development as a potential treatment for HIT.

Before VLX-1005 entered the clinic, preclinical data showed significant promise for the candidate. Data showed that VLX-1005 halts immune driven platelet activation and thrombosis, which means the drug asset provides potential of a lifesaving treatment for patients with HIT, an immune response caused by the use of heparin, a common blood thinner.

For many companies in the biopharma ecosystem, particularly those that do not yet have revenue streams from approved products, their intellectual property is the backbone of the company’s value, McBee said. For biotech companies, she said it’s “all about the people and the IP.”

“As you work from inception and product, you need the IP to get your valuation,” she said.

If that IP is ever divulged, McBee noted that it makes things easier for competitors to copy, which threatens potential earnings. And that’s why it’s crucial to have a strong team of attorneys who know the ins and outs of patent protection, she said.