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Focus and determination

Biochemistry PhD from USP opens an intellectual property consulting firm

Leonor Galvão: Laboratory experience helps understand researchers better

MAGELLANIPLeonor Galvão: Laboratory experience helps understand researchers betterMAGELLANIP

While attending a lecture on patents given by a biochemist during her second year of undergraduate studies, Leonor Magalhães Galvão, then a 19-year-old student, decided she wanted to pursue a career in the field of patents. “I called my mother at home and told her that I had figured out what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” Galvão recalls. “At that seminar, entitled Patent Law for Academics, I was expecting a lawyer, but the speaker turned out to be a biochemist who explained the basics of patents and the importance of technical training for working in that field,” Galvão says. The lecture took place at the Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine of the University of London, England, where the speaker, a Portuguese citizen from Lisbon, had studied biochemistry at the undergraduate level from 1996 to 2000.

Although Galvão’s real interest was patents, she spent time in laboratories working on undergraduate scientific research projects, and the experience helped her further reinforce her decision. “Things move slowly in laboratories. They take a long time to happen. The idea of observing a molecule over four years is not for me,” she says. “In patents no one sees the experiments that don’t come to fruition; we only see those that do, and we can make a very positive contribution so that the science, developed over many years, ultimately reaches the market.” Even though she had made her decision, she determined it would be worthwhile to pursue a doctorate. “In Europe, having a PhD is really helpful because patent firms want professionals who have doctorates, especially in the field of life sciences.”

In 2000 she applied to the Foundation for Science and Technology of Portugal for a PhD grant to study at the same institution in England. However, in 2001 she met her future husband during a trip to Brazil and decided to transfer her PhD. The government of Portugal gave Galvão permission to pursue her doctorate at the Chemistry Institute of the University of São Paulo (IQ – USP). Professor Shaker Chuck Farah served as her advisor.

At that time, the genome sequencing of several organisms was gaining momentum in Brazil. Her studies of the Xanthomonas axonopodis citri bacteria, for example, were used in the Structural Genome Project, begun in 2001, with the objective of analyzing the functions of proteins discovered in the genomes of the Xylella fastidiosa and Xanthomonas spp bacteria, for instance. At the same time, she was studying patent law on her own and took an exam to become certified by the Brazilian Industrial Property Institute (INPI). After that she began working as a consultant for several patent firms. In 2005, before she defended her thesis in 2007, she gave up the grant and began working in the São Paulo intellectual property firm of Monsen Leonardos.

In February 2015, then 37 and mother of three children, Galvão and three others founded Magellan IP, a firm that provides advisory services in administrative processing and consults on every facet of intellectual property. Galvão works with patents and her special focus is biotechnology. She represents Brazilian and international clients interested in using their intellectual property in Brazil and abroad. “Now my laboratory experience is helping me understand researchers and explain to them what needs to be done so that a patent protects a given invention as well as possible,” she says. In addition to working in the patent firm, since 2005 she has been coordinating the Biotechnology Studies Committee of the Brazilian Intellectual Property Association, which brings together firms and companies that have an interest in this subject.

Her major challenge now is to be an entrepreneur and deal with managing the firm, including payroll for the 17 marketing and finance associates. Galvão believes that the challenge for Brazil is to understand that intellectual property is an investment. “There has already been a substantial improvement at universities and companies in Brazil, but we still need to educate people to understand the value as well as the demands of patents.” She believes that holding more lectures like the one she attended in England when she was 19 is of the utmost importance for achieving this goal. FAPESP took the first step in October when Galvão was one of the speakers at the seminar entitled “The value of your ideas: protecting your intellectual property in the United States and Brazil.”