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Dr Joanne van Harmelen

Dr Joanne van Harmelen


South Africa

tel: +27 82 770 5396
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Local Time: Sat. 16:54


Dr Joanne van Harmelen heads up the biotechnology and life sciences cluster in ENSafrica’s  intellectual property (“IP”) department. She is a qualified patent attorney specialising in patent filing and prosecution in the biotech and pharmaceuticals sectors.

Joanne holds a PhD in medical microbiology and vaccine development. She has extensive experience in the field of biotechnology and life sciences, having prepared and filed patent applications locally and in foreign jurisdictions in the fields of microbiology, biochemistry, molecular medicine, agrobiology, bioremediation, bioprocessing, biopharmaceuticals, nutriceuticals, cosmetics and food sciences. Joanne is also experienced in the preparation and filing of plant breeders’ rights applications.

Joanne’s clients include leading international biotech companies and start-ups with operations in Africa, North America, Europe, Australasia and Asia.

Her expertise extends to the assessment of the patentability of inventions, preparation and filing of patent applications locally and abroad, performance of freedom-to-operate assessments, general IP commercial transactional advice and IP due diligence assessments. She also advises on IP and biotech-related legislation, in particular, legislation relating to publicly-financed research and development; bioprospecting involving indigenous biological resources and traditional knowledge; and genetically modified organisms.

Prior to qualifying as a patent attorney, Joanne was employed as a chief scientific officer at the University of Cape Town, involved in HIV vaccine development and testing, as well as the preparation for Phase I clinical trials in South Africa and the United States of America. 

Joanne is recognised as a leading/recommended lawyer by:

  • The Legal 500 EMEA 2018, 2017, 2016 – Intellectual Property (South Africa)
  • Best Lawyers® 2018, 2017 – Healthcare (South Africa)
  • Managing IP: IP Stars Handbook 2016 – Patents (South Africa)
  • IAM Patent 1000 2016 – Prosecutions (South Africa)


  • BSc (Rhodes University)
  • BSc (Hons) (Rhodes University)
  • PhD (University of Cape Town)
  • LLB (University of South Africa)
Areas of Practice
Professional Career

Professional Activities and Experience

Joanne is a member of the following professional institutions:

  • SAIIPL – South African Institute of Intellectual Property Law (fellow)
  • LES – Licensing Executives Society


    Patent prosecution highway to advance Africa-China IP relationship
    ENSafrica, December 2017

      The 41st session of the administrative council of the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (“ARIPO”) recently took place in Lilongwe, Malawi. Several documents on the administrative aspects of the organisation were discussed at the meeting, including the proposed programme of activities for 2018, and proposals to amend some ARIPO treaties to continually keep them in line with international trends...

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