John Jasper and his collaborators will publish a paper next month in the leading scientific journal Pharmaceutical Technology that opens the possibility of essentially re-patenting existing drugs and extending their lives for up to 20 years through a process known as molecular isotopic engineering.

Jasper, founder and chief executive of Niantic-based Nature’s Fingerprint, said that by using isotopic engineering, pharmaceutical companies may be able to tinker with existing formulations using his patented method to make subtle changes that could be considered by regulators as distinct chemical entities.

The result could be companies being able to patent multiple versions of the drug, allowing pharmaceutical firms to essentially extend the lives of their brands — if U.S. and other regulators approve the idea.