All R and D budget spent on .. lawyers

All R and D budget spent on .. lawyers
03 November 2018 - Money poorly spent

Interesting legal issue as reported by my fav newspaper: (link) funds earmarked for research and development spent on lawyers? These lawyers represent bioscience startup Secmatix and they have battled those of Radboud University Nijmegen in several court cases. Secmatix started as a spin-off exploiting a 2013 Radboud hydrogel invention, an arrangement that has apparently gone foul.

First the hydrogel. In 2013 Paul Kouwer and Alan Rowan reported (link) on an interesting polyisocyanopeptide hydrogel: a gel at room temperature but a liquid when cooled down. This youtube clip here will bring the message home. Polyisocyanides have an intrinsic helix backbone and if you start from an oligopeptide capped with an isocyanide group, the peptides will end up on the outside of the helix. In this particular biomolecule the peptide chains themselves are end-capped with ethyleneglycol units. The gelling properties of this material are also amazing, with only a few kilograms you can turn a serious swimming pool in one big gel (link). As to the mechanism, on heating the side-chains favour hydrogen-bond networks with neighbouring side-chains and water is pushed out, creating bundles of chains. On cooling this process is reversible. Already in 2013 the potential commercial application of this new wonder gel as a protective wound dressing was mentioned by the researchers. Easy to apply and even more easy to remove.

Back to the legal issue. In 2014 Radboud University donated the patent to Secmatix and provided funding for the commercial exploitation of the gel but now in 2018 Secmatix management is trying to seize the majority of the shares in a legal/financial scam (according to the Radboud lawyers) or as part of a business strategy (as the Secmatix lawyers no doubt see it).

Secmatix on its part is taking Radboud to court for disclosing confidential information to third parties (link) but in a forest of legal entities it is difficult to keep track. In another court case (link) the subject is even a poster presented on a scientific conference. All the while the R&D process has come to a standstill, even several government R&D subsidies were used to pay the legal fees.