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As a collaborative partner and developer of animal health pharmaceutical delivery solutions, the ultimate ownership of the intellectual property associated with Simcro’s innovative injectors and drench guns, is not always straightforward according to Will Rouse.

The managing director of the Hamilton-based company that devotes 10-12% of its annual turnover to R&D says it is not always possible to own the rights to a design, even if that is its preferred option.

“We attempt to own the IP if we feel there’s a wider market for the device, and it’s something that can come to market faster than normal,” says the part owner, along with three others, of the company which they successfully tendered for in a sales process three years ago. “In that case, we develop the solution and bear the cost of its development.”

“Sometimes the pharmaceutical company we’re dealing with wants complete exclusivity. They’ll fund the development, but in that case we want an exclusive supply contract.”

Novartis Animal Health, which distributes the Optiline drencher with some of its premium products, owns its IP and name. This has some advantages Rouse says, notably in that the huge multinational has the financial clout to defend any intellectual property infringement.

Simcro recently won the ‘Best use of R&D in International Business’ Special Award in the NZ International Business Awards. Its Sekurus (in Latin, securus means safety), self-tenting subcutaneous injector allows one-handed operation, with minimal chance of self-injection.

“The IP of the Sekurus is quite defendable,” Rouse says. “It’s clever, and we’ve spent a long time developing that mechanism, so we’re happy to take out patents.”

Though the company has 70 products under current development, admittedly with only 10-12 at any one time, in a couple of years Rouse wants “turnover to be really ramping up.” Currently over 90% of its products are distributed alongside an animal health company’s product, the delivery system part and package of the whole.

Simcro currently has a 13 person product development team, but he wants to double that within two years time. A sharemarket listing may be on the cards by that time, as may be a complementary acquisition, along with a bigger footprint in North America and Europe. Though Simcro already has sales people in those two continents as well as South Africa, more sales people would enable the company to engage with more pharmaceutical personnel in sections other than farm animal health.

“The United States is a big country and we’d benefit from more people on the ground,” Rouse says.

In five years time, Rouse wants Simcro to have the majority of its business in the companion animal and human health pharmaceutical delivery space. Though a much bigger potential market than farm animal health, “it’s a completely different ballgame,” he says.

“Products take longer to get to market, it is more heavily regulated, and it’s much different. However, we already have an open invitation from a major pharmaceutical player to develop products for these markets. Our circle of excellence in animal health delivery technologies is definitely able to be migrated to the human space.”

The company’s most limiting factor is capital for development he says. Given unlimited funds, he’d hire more product development personnel, being confident Simcro’s management culture can execute the company’s strategy.

“From a small place like New Zealand we’re able to produce inventions at the highest level,” Rouse says. “These days, we’re well aware of what we’re capable of.”

Intellectual property ownership key component of Simcro’s R&D culture

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