Canada showed strong growth in patents for pandemic prevention technology in last two decades, CIPO report finds

Mark Lowey
February 9, 2022

Canada ranked eighth globally in the number of patented pandemic mitigation technologies filed by institutions worldwide between 1999 and 2018, according to a report by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada’s (ISED) Canadian Intellectual Property Office.

"A marked increase in the Therapeutics and Development area was observed in the five years following the 2002 SARS outbreak, suggesting that Canadian innovators respond directly and quickly in patenting innovations to address needs as they arise," Sophy Lambert-Racine, a spokesperson for ISED, said in an email to Research Money.

Canadian institutions filed 178 patents, or 2.1 per cent of the total 8,452 patents filed by institutions worldwide during the 20-year-period, according to the report, Patenting to Fight Pandemics.

Canadian institutions had an annual growth rate in patented pandemic mitigation technologies of 15 per cent between 2009 and 2018, which is on par with institutions in leading innovative economies such as Germany and Japan, the report found.

"On a global scale, patented inventions in pandemic mitigation technologies have grown on average by 17 per cent annually between 1999 and 2018," Lambert-Racine said.

The report, done in collaboration with the National Research Council, focused on three research areas that align with NRC’s Pandemic Response Challenge Program. The program’s goal is to fast-track breakthroughs to support the fight against COVID-19.

While data on patent activity resulting from the recent COVID-19 pandemic isn’t available yet, the report provides an overview of patenting behaviour during and following past outbreaks.

“Given the challenges presented by COVID-19, understanding the context in terms of past innovation offers invaluable insights that can be used to aid in the mitigation of the health impact caused by the current pandemic,” the report said.

The three research areas of focus in the report are therapeutics and vaccine development, rapid detection and diagnosis, and digital health.

Canada saw uptick in patents after SARS

The number of patented pandemic mitigation technologies worldwide has grown annually by 17 per cent on average, from 45 patents in 1999 to 874 in 2018, according to the report.

Institutions in the U.S. and China held the largest patent portfolios for pandemic mitigation technologies, together accounting for more than 50 per cent of the patented inventions identified in the report.

There was an increase in patent activity by Canadian institutions after the onset of the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) coronavirus outbreak in 2003, which affected Canada more than anywhere else outside Asia.

This upward trend in patent activity continued until 2007, during which patent activity by Canadian institutions grew annually by 49 per cent, compared with 25-per-cent-growth by institutions worldwide.

The second uptick in patented pandemic mitigation inventions by Canadian institutions followed the MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) coronavirus outbreak in 2012.

Canadian patents in therapeutics and vaccine development especially strong

Of the 178 patents by 85 Canadian institutions between 1999 and 2018, 72 per cent related to the therapeutics and vaccine development category, compared with 18 per cent that related to rapid detection and diagnosis and 10 per cent that related to digital health. The report suggests that it signals a specialization of Canadian institutions in therapeutics and vaccine development, mostly related to chemical compositions of vaccines.

Of the 18 leading Canadian institutions that have been actively patenting pandemic mitigation technologies, 15 are working in therapeutics and vaccine development.

“This not only highlights the presence of a large number of Canadian institutions actively patenting in this field, but could also speak to the competitive environment they operate in,” the report said.

The Canadian institutions with the highest number of patents in therapeutics and vaccine development were Xenon Pharmaceuticals in B.C., Replicor Inc. in Quebec, Medicago Inc. in Quebec, Merck Canada Inc. in Quebec and the University Health Network in Ontario.

Vancouver and Montreal tie for most institutions patenting in the field

The report found B.C. had the highest patenting intensity, followed by Quebec and Ontario.

Metropolitan Vancouver and Montreal tied for the highest number of institutions in Canada patenting, with 12 institutions each, followed closely by Toronto with 10 institutions. At least three-quarters of these institutions were businesses, while the remaining one-quarter were academic institutions.

Manitoba, although not a leader in terms of the volume of patented inventions, had a number of collaborative patents involving domestic and international players originating from the academic sector.

Canadian institutions filed their patents predominantly at CIPO (46 per cent), followed by Intellectual Property India (13 per cent), the United States Patent and Trademark Office (11 per cent), and Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (seven per cent).

The CIPO said the appearance of India and Singapore could be explained by their specializations in pandemic presentation technology. India is a global manufacturing hub for pharmaceuticals, while Singapore is a regional hub for pharmaceutical manufacturing and R&D.


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