Inventors, who made a significant contribution to innovation, economy and society in Europe have been awarded since 2006 by the European Patent Office (EPO) with the European Inventor Award (earlier called European Inventor of the Year Award). The European Inventor Award is a global, highly recognized innovation prize that celebrates the “Tomorrow Shapers” – inventors whose perseverance, ingenuity and creativity are paving the way to a brighter future. Since 2013 the public has been invited to vote, while keeping a scientific jury to judge proposals.
This year 12 finalists were listed in 4 categories, for Industry, Research, Non-EPO Countries and SMEs, next to the 4 category winners they also list a Lifetime Achievement Award and a Popular Prize Winner from the public votes. Among the 3 finalists for the Research category, you can find names which are very familiar for the cyclodextrin enthusiasts, namely Thorsteinn Loftsson and Einar Stefánsson from Iceland, founders of Oculis, who are nominated for their invention about nanotechnology-based eye treatment, the OCS-01. As expressed by the EPO, they developed an eye drop that can deliver drugs to the back of the eye, replacing costly and invasive eye injections that are less accessible and require a medical professional to administer. On the EPO website, first the challenges of diabetic macular edema (DME) is introduced then cyclodextrins and how the CD nanoparticles can solve previously unsolved problems. Then the backgrounds of Einar and Thorsteinn are explained, both studying in the US in the 80s and returning to Iceland in the 90s to become professors at the University of Iceland, to become friends, business partners and pioneers.
EPO cites Einar about the importance of building a robust patent portfolio next to scientific publications in journals: “We had a very good patent attorney that we worked with from the beginning,” says Stefánsson, “and so we had a very sound basis for the IP. And in pharma, no IP, no future”. Writing these lines I, Zoltán, am also proud to be co-inventor in some Oculis patents.
You can vote for your favorite inventors here: https://inventoraward.epo.org/
The winners will be announced in July 4th, 2023. We will report the results too.
From earlier recipients of the award, I would like to mention Patrick Couvreur from the University of Paris-Sud and his colleagues, who won the Research category in 2013 for inventing nanocapsules which destroy cancer cells without harming healthy tissue. While this award did not come for a cyclodextrin-related invention, his group was involved in cyclodextrin research too, as the Institut Galien Paris Sud is a hotbed for cyclodextrin research, including the legendary Dominique Duchene and many more scientists.
Other interesting winner is Robert Langer, who won in 2016 in the Non-EPO Countries category for his work on targeted anti-cancer drugs, also has cyclodextrin connections from his wide ranging research portfolio.
Katalin Karikó, who became world-famous during the COVID pandemic due to the mRNA vaccines, won a Lifetime Achievement Award for her lifetime work on modified mRNA for lifesaving vaccines and therapies; during her career she also worked with cyclodextrins.