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Headquarters: Palo Alto, Calif. Founded: 1991 Patents: More than 700 Business: Sells access to its database of information on genes. Also expanding into drug discovery. Diana Hamlet-Cox thought she’d be a scientist, not a lawyer. But when she was in graduate school studying biological chemistry and molecular biology, she concluded that research was not for her. So after receiving her doctorate from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1984, Hamlet-Cox took a job as a biotech consultant at the Rand Corp. On the side, she was a tenants’ rights activist at her apartment building. In 1987, she saw a help-wanted ad for Millen, White, Zelano & Branigan, an Arlington, Va., IP firm. The firm was looking for a biochemist Ph.D. with an interest in the law. She had the Ph.D. and figured that her housing court experience met the other qualification. “They called and told me what the job was. I said, ‘Patent, what’s a patent?’ ” Within a year, she was a patent agent at Millen, White, attending law school at night at George Mason University. She stayed with the firm for 11 years, finally leaving in 1999 to join the Incyte Corp. Today, as vice president of intellectual property at Incyte, Hamlet-Cox knows much more about patents. The company is the largest commercial holder of gene patents in the world. Today, Incyte holds more than 700 U.S. patents and has applications pending on 30,000 gene sequences. Most of these will not be prosecuted to completion because of the cost. Besides overseeing a team of 20 lawyers, patent agents, and patent writers, Hamlet-Cox manages the company’s IP portfolio, reviews licensing agreements, and advises her team on how to conduct business with the U.S. Patent Office. Although she doesn’t do much day-to-day patent prosecution anymore, she does work extensively with the Patent Office. The office requires that gene patents have “real world” utility. Often, Hamlet-Cox has to argue that Incyte’s gene claims are useful. Away from the lab, Hamlet-Cox finds herself in the middle of a hot policy controversy. There is much debate these days about whether gene patents are ethical and whether they promote or hinder genetic research. “Gene patenting is the biggest controversy Incyte is facing,” says Lila Feisee, director of IP at the Biotechnology Industry Organization. The company has to “be convincing in front of the Patent Office,” Feisee says. “Diana presents [the issues] in the right way.” Since its inception in 1991, Incyte has thrived by licensing access to its extensive database — a complete collection of known human genes. The company has licensing agreements and partnerships with such companies as Agilent Technologies, Genentech, and Medarex. Incyte will need those gene patents even more as it expands into the drug discovery business. As the number of genes yet to be patented falls over the next few years, Incyte plans on switching its focus — to new medicines. The challenge will be to find commercially useful gene sequences. Shortly after arriving at Incyte, Hamlet-Cox proposed an innovative way to discover these sequences, a computer program that would search records, articles, and published papers to identify sequences with the highest value. Incyte’s programmers made her idea a reality, and today the program is used throughout the company. In February, Incyte acquired San Diego’s Maxia Pharmaceuticals. Maxia focuses on the development of small-molecule drugs, which, unlike other therapies developed by biotech companies, are usually taken in pill form. While Hamlet-Cox is helping support such moves into the drug discovery business, the majority of her time is still spent pushing through Incyte’s enormous docket of pending patent applications. Hamlet-Cox isn’t just thinking about Incyte’s future. What’s next for her? “I guess I would become general counsel somewhere,” she says. “Wherever I end up, this position will be the standard I will apply in evaluating my job satisfaction.”

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