Biopharma: Local attorneys attend annual convention in San Diego


By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Attorneys Jennifer Woodside Wojtala and Damian Kotsis, both from the Troy office of the intellectual property firm of Harness Dickey, attended the 2014 BIO International Convention June 23-26 at the San Diego Convention Center.

“Biopharma patenting is an up-and-coming practice area for our firm, and Damian and Jennifer are among our very strong team in this field,” said Monte Falcoff, a principal at the firm, noting that the Biopharma team specializes in genomics, proteomics, bioengineering, small-molecule and protein therapeutics, biopharmaceuticals, enzymology, stem cells, and pharmacology.

Kotsis and Wojtala teamed with Biopharma specialists from the Harness Dickey office in St. Louis: Leanne Rakers, Kisuk Lee, Elisabeth Koral, Gregory DeLassus, and Joshua Kim; and marketing specialist Amanda Stehl also attended.    

The BIO Convention, hosted by the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), draws almost 16,000 biotechnology specialists from all over the world, bringing together many different types of international companies, from start-ups to big pharma, universities, governments, nonprofits, and service providers. Many attendees focus on the business side, including exploring potential partnering between companies or potential acquisitions. With a well-established biotech industry in Southern California, many attendees were from the local area. San Diego is one of the three largest life sciences clusters in the U.S., home to several top academic and research institutions that have created close to 300 life science start-ups.

“The Biopharma team at Harness Dickey has attended the BIO conference for several years,” said Wojtala, who was attending for her first time. “Attending and having a booth has helped to establish our presence in the industry and further our growth. Intellectual property is a key aspect of the business for most biotechnology companies and universities pursuing biotechnology portfolios – thus, as the industry continues to grow, so does our Biopharma practice.”

The BIO Exhibition featured more than 1,700 exhibitors, covered approximately 180,000 square feet, and included top 25 pharma companies, top 20 contract research organizations (CROs) and contract manufacturing organizations (CMOs), more than 300 academic institutions including major research labs and government agencies and leading consultants and service companies.

Wojtala, whose favorite exhibit was the Innovation Zone featuring new, emerging technologies, was pleasantly surprised at the size of the show.

“When I started exploring the convention floor, it was overwhelming how many exhibits there were,” she said. “However, it was exciting to have the opportunity to be part of such an event, not only to learn more about various emerging technologies, but to meet new people in the industry. Also, it provided excellent opportunities to meet with existing clients from around the world.”

The Harness Dickey team had an exhibition booth on the main floor, where they were visited by people from all arenas of the Biopharma world, ranging from start-ups to well established conglomerates, said Kotsis, who also attended the 2013 event in Chicago.

“Members of the team arranged for various meetings with existing clients or contacts at companies, universities, and legal counsel in foreign jurisdictions,” he said. “It’s especially convenient to meet with international clients and contacts, as many attend the BIO conference.”

Education at the event include a keynote address and several sessions and forums, including an Intellectual Property Track highlighting challenges in IP protection for biotech innovations including pragmatic approaches to securing protection in light of judicial and administrative developments.

“We didn’t have an opportunity to attend the sessions, as we had many meetings and needed to ensure coverage at our booth,” Wojtala said. “However, this is another area we’d like to take full advantage of in the future.”

Many of the sessions focused on changes to U.S. patent law and policy, after recent significant patent reform, including legislative reform and recent Supreme Court cases that have detrimentally impacted the eligibility of many types of biotechnology inventions.

“We answered hundreds of questions from individuals, companies, universities, and institutions that were interested in learning more about these recent developments in case law – especially regarding Mayo v. Prometheus, Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad, and Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank Int.,” Kotsis said. “We also provided them with literature we prepared, containing tips for moving forward in light of the recent decisions. We also talked to many companies and institutions about how we can help them secure and protect their intellectual property.” 

Representatives from the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) participated in sessions to discuss their recent examination guidelines for determining patent eligibility of biotechnology and chemical inventions in view of the recent case law from the Supreme Court. 

“These guidelines have been of great concern for the biotechnology and chemical industries, as they limit which types of biotechnology and naturally derived products can be patented,” Wojtala explained.

“After the input from the BIO conference, the USPTO requested additional comments from the public on the guidelines. Our Biopharma team is in the process of preparing comments in support of patentability for these types of inventions in view of the recent cases, which we plan to submit to the USPTO before the deadline.”

A reporter from Science magazine, published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, stopped by the booth and interviewed Kotsis and Wojtala.

“The reporter published an article about changing U.S. patent rules in in July 4 issue of Science, which included our thoughts – the type of great exposure one simply can’t plan,” Kotsis said.

The Harness Dickey team hosted a hospitality reception one evening at the booth.

“It was enjoyable to spend some time with our clients and contacts, while taking a break to enjoy some food and refreshments after a long day,” Wojtala said. “The reception also provided us with the opportunity to meet dozens of attendees as they stopped in to visit.”

“We’re still in communication with people we met either during the reception, or during the Convention in general,” Kotsis added.     

When Kotsis and Wojtala returned to the Troy office, they participated in a meeting to discuss what went well and how to improve the experience next year. Both agreed the Convention was very productive, if exhausting – and a great way to meet many new contacts in the industry and learn more about new companies.

“The Convention Center in San Diego is huge, so there was necessarily a lot of walking,” Kotsis said. “Not only did we staff our booth, but we also walked around to learn about the other Exhibitors. Nonetheless, it was fun to interact with so many people and to answer their questions about patent law or to talk to them about how our services can benefit their business. We continuously strive to find creative methods for asserting our presence in the biopharma arena in order to keep improving and grow our practice.”