In recent years, technology and innovation has advanced at an unprecedented pace. Flying taxi drones, self-driving cars and 3D-printers immediately come to mind. However, exciting progress has been made in life sciences and the healthcare sector as well. With CRISPR, bionic limbs and 3D-printed tissue, the medical sector has never been closer to eliminating disease and prolonging life. It can be challenging to keep up with these developments while, at the same time, keeping an eye on the legal framework and protection.

This has been the topic of numerous conferences in 2017. To kick things off, possibilities to make medicines more accessible was discussed at the 13th Legal Affairs Conference by Medicines for Europe held in London in March. Discussions focused on antitrust law, the coming UPC and how Brexit affects patenting. Orphan drugs, transparency in clinical trials and compulsory licenses were also on the topic list.

The LESI Conference 2017 in Paris in April took a more practical approach and invited key players to discuss and share their experiences regarding recent developments. Participants discussed cell therapy, immunotherapy and how IPR can help the cutting edge advances in medicine. Another topic was how to bridge early stage inventions and commercialization. The implementation of software and digitization in the healthcare sector was also addressed. Finally, industry members debated whether advances in medical treatments and Bionics can help to permanently eliminate certain diseases and disabilities, whether wide-spread or rare.

Furthermore, the 9th Pharma & Biotech Patent Litigation Conference took place in Amsterdam in April. The focus of this event revolved around the challenges of litigation and the enforcement of IP rights in context with the pharmaceutical and biotechnological industries. The topics addressed had mainly a legal emphasis but took into account the particularities of the mentioned industries, so topics like latest trends in preliminary injunctions across Europe, litigation on biosimilars, and the CRISPR patent landscape were tackled.

Most recently, the Life Sciences IP Minds 2017 conference was held in London in June. The agenda of this event covered themes including the future of the European life sciences market, patent arbitration in the area of biological sciences, and the challenges of the new emerging markets in the field of life sciences and their access to IP rights and protection.

As these examples show, medical advances have an increasing impact on the legal world. Developing appropriate patenting and licensing strategies will be key for fostering and keeping control of these innovations.