Alok was euphoric!!! After 6 years of hard work, his team had finally released their first universal TB vaccine with full patent protection for 3 years. The product was a great success not only commercially but also well received in the entire South East Asian market. Congratulatory messages from friends, relatives and investors were pouring in ! But there was one call that Alok had to make. As Alok pressed his keypad to dial the numbers, his memories came rushing back!

Things were not so rosy 5 years back. Infact 5 years back, Alok was a broken man. The prospect of taking up a well paid post-doctoral position in Munich, Germany would have been a dream for many scientists, but not for Alok. It was a fall back option that he never imagined he would have to take up.

This decision to take up the position was the culmination of a long scientific career that included a PhD from one of the premier institutes in Bangalore in Life Sciences. One of the highlights of his research was the development of a universal vaccine for TB. Spurred by years of research, dedication and hard work, Alok had formed a team to commercialize the research. In the process he had met several investors who were fascinated by the invention and were willing to pump in the investment needed for the commercialization process. 

But there was one hitch! Investors wanted a bulletproof patent on the technology to make sure their investments were not only protected but yielded rich returns. Inspite of Alok’s relentless efforts he couldn’t make any progress on patents in Indian courts due to lack of proper guidance. As a result the team disbanded with each member going their own way, including Alok.

Having discussed options with his wife, he decided to take up the position at Munich. As he picked up his phone, there was a WhatsApp message flashing on his screen from his high school WhatsApp group. It was an invitation for a high school reunion on account of the 25th anniversary. He ignored it. Once he reached home, he sent out an email to the institute in Munich that he was accepting the post-doctoral position. Just as he got up for dinner, his wife remarked, “we should go for your school reunion, it would be a welcome change for us before we leave for Germany !”. He reluctantly agreed with his wife and the prospect of meeting a few old friends brightened his spirits a little.

The following week, Alok and his wife were at his school reunion. Several of his old friends turned up. It lightened him up, but he couldn’t get over the thought of leaving his dream and doing something else. Still, he met his friends and had a few drinks followed by dinner. It was great to know that many of his friends were doing well for themselves and some of them had come all the way from abroad to make it to the reunion. It was past 11 PM, as Alok and his wife got up to leave, his eyes fell on a young woman engaged in a conversation with another friend. Alok quickly gestured to Hema, his wife, “didn’t i tell you about a girl Nandhini in my school, she is the one over there”. “Who Nandhini?, you mean that girl who beat you in debates, the one you never got along with but had a crush on???”, Hema asked mischievously. “Not a crush really, she used to be too blunt, she used to argue with all our teachers, but i guess we were all kids then”, replied Alok. “Don’t you want to meet her and make up?”, Hema insisted. “No lets leave!” said Alok affirmatively. 

Just as Alok and Hema got into their car to drive out of the hotel, he could see Nandhini approaching their car. As Nandhini waved at him , he rolled down his window to wave back. “Alok, how are you?”, Nandhini enquired, genuinely happy seeing him. “Are you avoiding me?”, she said gleefully. “Nandhini, you haven’t changed a bit, this is my wife Hema”, remarked Alok introducing his wife. He quickly cut her off saying “can i call you later?, iam in a hurry!”. “No problem Alok, here’s my card, call me when you have time, would love to catch up with you!”, replied Nandhini waving at their car which had started moving by then. 

Just a few metres down, Alok’s car screeched to a halt with sudden brakes!!! 

Nandhini was a Patent lawyer specialising in Intellectual Property. Alok got out of the car looking for her, she was nowhere in sight. He quickly got back home and looked at her LinkedIn profile. Nandhini was a Law graduate from Penn State and had shifted back to India after working in the United States for 10 years. Over the next few days, Alok researched her profile on google and discovered that she had protected several small Biotech firms from patent infringement and she had several citations for her work in patent journals. In India, Nandhini had setup a practice helping Indian Biotech startups with their technology strategy. Looking at Nandhini’s profile, Hema remarked, “no wonder she beat you in debates, you wouldnt have stood a chance against her!” Alok didnt say a word! He had things to do. He quickly sent another email to the institute in Munich saying he was cancelling his plans to take up the position.

Over the following weeks he met up with Nandhini to develop their patent strategy and then assembled his team to bring them back on board. 

Aloks’s thoughts were interrupted by Nandhini’s voice at the other end. “Thanks Nandhini for all the help, i owe you a lot for this”, he said. “Alok, this is your invention and i helped you with it”, Nandhini argued. “Yes, its my invention, but its your protection that has helped my invention and many more such inventions in the future. I realised today that without your help, my invention would have just been a dream!” retorted Alok.