In August of 1998, Dr. Michael J. Heller, a founder of San Diego-based Nanogen Inc., applied for a patent on a method he and a colleague discovered for synthesizing molecular structures.
In early 2008, after more than nine years and tens of thousands of dollars in costs, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office finally approved the patent. The belated approval didn’t end up doing much good for Nanogen.
The company, which used nanotechnology in medical diagnostics, filed for bankruptcy in May of this year, and laid off 89 employees in June.
It is highly doubtful that the patent — had it been awarded in a more timely fashion — would have in itself saved the company from bankruptcy. But it certainly could have helped, said Heller, who left the company several years ago and is now a professor of bioengineering at the University of California, San Diego’s Jacobs School of Engineering.