Patent wall at the Frederick National Laboratory
23 patents awarded to Frederick National Laboratory investigators between 2017 and 2022.

Technologies invented and patented by researchers at the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research are on display at the laboratory’s Advanced Technology Research Facility to highlight the innovation that is integral to FNL’s mission to discover and innovate to improve human health. 

“Securing a patent is a huge accomplishment in general and a major accomplishment in biomedical sciences where the intellectual property landscape is often highly complex,” said Claudia Haywood, JD, director of FNL’s Intellectual Property and Strategic Agreements.  

She championed the creation of the patent display to acknowledge FNL’s inventors and encourage innovation.  

“Patents, by law, are only awarded when the substantive matter or claims are determined to be ‘novel’ and ‘unique’ or ‘non-obvious,’” Haywood said. “Inherent in the determination of novelty, uniqueness, or non-obviousness is innovation.” 

The display’s 23 plaques cross the breath of the FNL’s research in cancer and HIV/AIDS, including cancer-targeting nanoparticles, a device that calibrates small radioactive doses, methods to analyze virus-derived therapeutics, and K-Ras inhibitors for treating cancer.  

Most of these patents are owned by the government and the technologies are available for licensing from the National Cancer Institute's Technology Transfer Center.  

The display, which features original art by FNL graphic designer Joseph Meyer, stands in front of the auditorium where it can be viewed by visitors and staff members. The display, which features patents awarded between 2017 and 2022 is designed to expand, to accommodate additional patents. 

A culture of innovation  

The patent display reflects a continuing effort to foster a culture of innovation at FNL, where scientists conduct investigator-initiated research and provide critical scientific and technical support to NCI researchers.  

“Throughout history, from the inception of the wheel… to breakthroughs like penicillin, the polio vaccine or immunotherapy, innovation has consistently enriched our daily lives,” said FNL’s Chief Innovation Officer Vladimir Popov, Ph.D., MBA.  

A 2022 survey conducted across six U.S. Department of Energy national laboratories showed that an innovation culture was a key driver of research output as demonstrated by inventions, publications, commercial outcomes, and partnerships. The survey team measured innovation on a 100-point scale and found that a single point increase corresponded to a 20–30% increase in key research and development performance outcomes.  

“Within FNL, innovation plays a pivotal role in delivering new and enhanced technologies that empower us to tackle essential scientific inquiries, enhance our services for government clients and collaborators, and ultimately contribute to the wellbeing of patients,” Popov said.  

Investing in innovation  

Recognizing the benefits of innovation, FNL launched the Center for Innovation and Strategic Partnerships about a year ago. The Center was the leading force behind the patent display, as well as other initiatives such as the new Discovery Development Program (DDP). 

The DDP invests in employee creativity by funding innovative ideas by FNL scientists before they have proof-of-concept data.   

“Every innovation originates from an idea,” Popov said. “It is crucial to offer avenues for testing these ideas early in the process to assess their viability.” However, most funding sources require proof-of-concept data, creating a catch-22.   

Through DDP, FNL scientists can test their creative ideas and generate the data they need to seek funding from the National Cancer Institute or partners to support for further development. Despite the program having only launched earlier this year, it is already seeing successes. In fact, a DDP patent could appear on the wall in a few years.  

“We already started the patenting process for one of our projects by filing a provisional patent application,” Popov said. “We anticipate the commencement of many more patent applications in the near future.” 

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