Latvian heart drug loses out to Swiss microchip for patent prize

In front of 400 guests at the festive ceremony inside the historic Paris Bourse Thursday, Latvian biochemist Ivars Kalviņš received profuse praise from European Patent Office (EPO) president Benoit Battistelli for spearheading a new generation of drug compounds including heart medication Mildronate.

Though he is not taking home the EPO’s European Inventor of the Year award in the category of Lifetime Achievement this year, Battistelli hailed Kalviņš for proving that a small nation can be a successful developer of innovative patents that can lead not just to great products, but also create new jobs. Battistelli called the achievements of Latvian Institute of Organic Synthesis (OSI), which Kalviņš has headed for many years, “world-class”.

Kalviņš was a finalist nominated for the Lifetime Achievement award in the EPO’s Medicine/Biochemistry sector this year. The award went instead to Andreas Manz of Switzerland for his entire-laboratory-in-a-microchip invention which will improve data-gathering for medical and other forms of diagnosis in the field where analytical capacity is otherwise limited.

Mildronate, made by Latvian pharmaceuticals firm Grindeks, protects patients who are prescribed the medicine from heart disease and stroke and is available around the world. Mildronate ranks among Latvia’s most successful medical exports: it generated an export turnover of around €60–70 million in 2013, with a share of 0.6% to 0.7% of all Latvian exports.

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