Richard Clegg, a Mewburn Ellis partner in the life sciences patent team, started working on aptamer/SELEX technology in 2003 and prosecuted the original patents relating to this technology in Europe.
An aptamer is a short nucleic acid that is capable of high-affinity, specific binding to a target molecule. Aptamers are very rare; only a handful of aptamers to a given target may exist in a mixture of 109 nucleic acids.
The method that enabled aptamers to be identified was the ‘systematic evolution of nucleic acid ligands by exponential enrichment’ (SELEX). It was invented by Larry Gold, who won the European Inventor of the Year Award in 2006 for the SELEX method.
As is often the case with a novel class of molecule, obtaining class-level patent protection for aptamers and their uses was a complex procedure. Following his original success after becoming the first European patent attorney to do so, Richard Clegg has, over the subsequent decade, prosecuted in excess of 150 further patent applications for aptamer-related inventions. The applications have, in general, related to methods for identification of aptamers, novel aptamers per se, including chemically modified aptamers, and their diagnostic and therapeutic applications. He has worked mostly for the following applicant companies: Gilead Sciences, Somalogic, Archemix and Ophthotech.