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Commercialising biomedical inventions: The IP and licensing journey

Biomedical research can lead to promising breakthroughs. But what if the lead researcher on the project does not wish to launch a start-up and embark on the development of a new drug beyond the realm of academia? Does this mean a promising discovery that could one day save lives might simply be forgotten? Thanks to companies like LASCCO that specialise in biomedical technology development, this needn’t be the case. Samareh, who co-founded LASCCO with her husband in 2007, gives us an insight into licensing biomedical discoveries.

In a nutshell, what does LASCCO do?

LASCCO in-licenses breakthrough technologies at discovery stage that originate from academic labs and university hospitals. We focus on acute, critical and emergency care. We examine opportunities that are still too immature to interest mainstream investors and the pharma industry, and we validate their commercial potential, conduct clinical trials and develop technologies until the pharma industry is ready to buy them out. We work with researchers who want to dedicate their time and energy to their academic research rather than taking the leap of launching a start-up to develop their pharma solution.

How do you know if a discovery has the potential to be commercialised?

We spend a lot of time checking several parameters. We go through an in-depth due diligence process, during which we collect and analyse data to better understand the assets and liabilities and evaluate the commercial potential of the discovery. For example, we look carefully at the science behind the original IP, whether it fills a medical gap and what our patent protection strategy would look like. We also work on how the drug could be manufactured – forecasting timelines and costs – after which we start designing the non-clinical and clinical stages.

we need to build on embryonic data while being sure the invention or discovery has commercial potential

When you work on an academic discovery, what are the steps you take in terms of licensing and who owns the invention?

If a discovery is promising and we want to develop it, we in-license the IP. This means we sign a licensing agreement with the academic party to acquire exclusive exploitation rights on their patent. The academics or inventors remain the owners of the patent and will always receive a percentage of any financial return generated via out-licensing deals or sales.

But during the development process we also work hand in hand with the inventors and their research institutes’ technology transfer office to generate and consolidate the IP. As we take the innovation through non-clinical and early clinical stages, we also file patents for any discoveries that arise along the way. At the end of the process, when we reach the point where pharma companies are interested in the discovery, we out-license the IP to pharma strategic partners, giving them exclusive exploitation rights to pursue the final steps of development and commercialize the product.

How do you attract pharma’s attention to out-license your innovation?

We start the dialogue with potential partners early on and we try to keep discussions alive throughout the development process. We also aim to publish the scientific and clinical data in top journals and we work with key opinion leaders – usually clinicians who are influential in the scientific world and the pharma industry. Having an approach that fills a medical gap (the value and implementation of which has been demonstrated in patients and in real clinical settings) and that has been validated by experts and key opinion leaders makes it easier to convince pharma of our innovations’ potential.

You’ve worked with Abionic, another Biopôle member. Could you tell us more about this partnership?

Our work with Abionic was based on one of our earliest program, a biomarker called PSP – for the early detection of sepsis – that we in-licensed from the University Hospital of Zurich. We went on to generate data on several thousands of patients to show it has the unique ability to identify patients who are developing sepsis before the clinical symptoms are obvious. This was a significant discovery as it means a hospital can intervene earlier and patients are much more likely to survive.

Abionic has developed just the right technology for using this biomarker in hospitals: a highly performant point-of-care diagnostic device based on microfluidics that allows PSP levels to be measured in a few minutes from a drop of blood, at the patient’s bedside. Abionic is now commercialising this product and has signed with distributors in more than 60 countries. It is a very successful partnership.

Being constantly surrounded by experts from different fields means I’m always learning from them.

What are the main considerations a scientist should think about before launching a start-up based on its innovation?

An important step for any entrepreneur is to learn to look at its data objectively. At LASCCO, we usually generate data across several labs to see how reproducible it is. It’s also key to approach your invention in a very practical way. Think about exactly how clinicians will use this tool: in which type of patients, at what point in the course of the disease, relying on which other potential tools? Asking these questions helps you to know what type of data you need to generate early on. It’s about having a business head on your shoulders as well as thinking like a scientist.

What is unique about what you’re doing?

We work on medical solutions that don’t exist yet. It’s very exciting but it’s also a challenge, as we need to build on embryonic data while being sure the invention or discovery has commercial potential.

I am also constantly learning. For each innovation we take on, we build a team of seasoned professionals to ensure we have the right in-house expertise until we out-license. Being constantly surrounded by experts from different fields means I’m always learning from them. In my line of work, I start off with very little knowledge and go through a steep learning curve for each project.

The work we do is hugely rewarding. My husband and I founded the company together 15 years ago and we have fun every day. There’s something quite thrilling about taking something that is very immature and developing it into a sophisticated product that can help clinicians and save patients’ life.

Samareh Azeredo da Silveira Lajaunias
Co-Founder and Managing Director of LASCCO
Since 2007, Dr Samareh Azeredo da Silveira Lajaunias has been a founding partner at LASCCO SA, which focuses on the translation of novel therapies from discovery to clinical stage in the fields of critical care and emergency. Samareh was also a partner at Sepstone Diagnostics, a spin-off of LASCCO dedicated to the development of novel biomarkers for sepsis.

In 2015, Samareh launched Combioxin, another spin-off of LASCCO, for the development of CAL02, a first-in-class anti-virulence agent for the treatment of severe infections. In 2021, she signed a license agreement for the commercial rights to CAL02 with Eagle Pharmaceuticals.

She holds a PhD from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL), was selected as one of the 100 outstanding personalities contributing to the dynamism and innovation spirit in Switzerland (Forum des 100) and is the mother of three beautiful children.

LASCCO SA is a biomedical-technology development private company based at the Biopole of Lausanne, Switzerland.

The primary objective of LASCCO is to bring promising early-stage biomedical technologies – therapeutics and diagnostics – developed in research institutes to the attention of the pharmaceutical industry.
The company’ portfolio is currently composed of two critical care products based on innovative technologies and aiming at fighting sepsis and treating severe bacterial and viral infections.

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