The cardiology researcher breaking new ground

Researcher and cardiologist all in one – Jin Li of the University of Bern is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery behind cardiac arrhythmia. Thanks to an Assisted Patent Search at the IPI, she can protect her invention in this area and use it on a commercial basis to help people.

Researcher Jin Li participated in an Assisted Patent Search.
Researcher Jin Li participated in an Assisted Patent Search. Image: IPI

When Jin Li talks about her work, you can feel the passion. “Even as a child I wanted to become a doctor”, she says. After studying medicine in Heidelberg, Jin Li specialised in cardiology. The 33 year old has been researching the causes of cardiac arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat, for several years. She leads a designated research team at the University of Bern’s Institute of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine. Cardiology is an area with many knowledge gaps, for example, the causes of sudden cardiac death. To put it simply, Jin Li’s mission is to find a way to keep the heart beating normally.


From the research lab to the hospital

Her research focuses on autoantibodies which are produced in some people’s bodies and can attack the heart. This is already commonly known in the area of immune diseases. In cardiology, however, it is a relatively new phenomenon. The cardiologist wants to find out whether antibodies could be used as a preventative treatment against cardiac arrhythmia. Alongside her research activities in Bern, Jin Li also works part-time as a cardiologist in Lausanne University Hospital. «It’s the perfect combination. Being in direct contact with patients allows me to identify where there are gaps in medical knowledge so I can adapt my research accordingly,» says Jin Li.


Setbacks come with the territory

Research is a bumpy road and eureka moments are rare. «You have to be able to deal with the frustration, it’s all part of it,» she says. Of course, researchers don’t cheer when an experiment that took weeks of preparation doesn’t yield the expected results. «Although, we often do,» the friendly researcher replies with a laugh. Jin Li takes it all in her stride as giving up is not an option. Her determination to help others outweighs everything else as she states that «we will continue to do as many experiments needed until we achieve our goal.»


Is my invention new? Searching patent databases

With one particular experiment, Jin Li appeared to have made a breakthrough. But what next? She wanted to get clarification so she applied for an Assisted Patent Search at the Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property (IPI). Together with a patent expert, she looked for the needle in a haystack. Is the invention really new? Has someone already had the same idea? After several hours of detective work in online databases, it was clear – her innovation is a first – and therefore patentable!

Two days later, Jin Li applied to patent her invention with the support of Unitectra. Jin Li is now officially an inventor. However, she’s not going to just sit back after filing her first patent. She is eager to investigate other unsolved medical mysteries.


A big fan of The X-Files

With all this work, does Jin Li find time for balance? «Yes, I often go on runs with my dog, for example.» She also enjoys drawing. It comes as no surprise that the researcher is a big fan of science fiction, given that it also involves exploring new frontiers. «As a child, I was very curious and wanted to understand nature. That thirst for knowledge never went away,» she says at the end of the interview. She also reveals that one of her favourite series is The X-Files. Fun fact: according to a study (article in german), women who strongly identify with the main character Dana Scully are likely pursue a career in science.


«The search gave me certainty»

Jin Li participated in a full-day Assisted Patent Search at the IPI. «I had previously searched well-known patent databases such as Espacenet, but didn’t have any success. It was only with this particular patent search that I began to get to the crux of the matter,» she tells us. She was impressed by the possibilities of the specialised search tools in searching patent specifications from all over the world. «The results of the search confirmed to me that I was on the right path,» says Jin Li.

She thinks that the clarification gained by doing a patent search is essential for any patent application. She says that the day with the patent expert was well structured and tailored to her subject. «The patent landscape analysis afterwards also allowed me to think outside the box and to learn more about where science and industry meet.»

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