PharmaTimes talks to some of pharma and healthcare’s most promising young leaders, already making waves in their companies and brightening the future

Andrew Wells, Herbert Smith Freehills, Senior Associate

What path have you taken to your current role?

I studied Natural Sciences at university, ultimately focussing on organic chemistry. My final year included a research project working on the synthesis of a portion of a brasilinolide natural product. After finishing my degree, I decided to pursue a career in the law – I found that there were strong similarities between the way of thinking required for organic chemistry mechanisms and for law. I qualified into the European IP team at Herbert Smith Freehills in 2012 and have worked here ever since. I would describe myself as a life sciences lawyer with a particular focus on patent litigation; it has been great to be able to find a role which allows me to combine my scientific background with my interest in the law. It has also been important to me to be involved in other aspects of life within our firm along the way, chairing our London office Social and Sports Committee for a number of years and, more recently, sitting on our London Ability Network Committee (which has a remit to support the firm’s inclusive approach to disability), of which I am currently co-chair.

Where have you made the most significant impact in your career so far?

In terms of my legal role, the first case I worked on was particularly memorable. I was part of the team acting for Gilead in litigation regarding sofosbuvir for the treatment of HCV. The specific aspect of the case that I focussed on involved arguments relating to the synthesis of particular fluorinated nucleoside analogues and it was litigated all around the world, so I ended up advising on strategy in relation to proceedings in Norway, Canada and Australia as well as the UK. More broadly, though, I hope that I have made some impact around mental health. I am particularly passionate about this topic and act as a Mental Health Champion within our firm. I am an advocate for change in this area and have recently been delivering a talk sharing my experiences of depression and anxiety in the hope that doing so might contribute to the ongoing effort to reducing the stigma in this area. It has been satisfying to do this both within the legal professions but also, more recently, by offering to talk to clients about this topic in the hope of opening up these conversations in the life sciences sector too, which has been well-received.

What inspires your interest in the life sciences sector?

It might sound like a cliché, but I find being able to work with companies who use cutting edge science to develop new treatments and technologies which improve the lives of patients both fascinating and rewarding.

How do you see pharma patent litigation changing in the next decade?

I think we will start to see more and more cases involving technology that blurs the lines between ‘traditional’ pharmaceuticals, diagnostics, big data, personalised medicine and digital healthcare. It’s a really exciting time!

Where do you see yourself professionally in ten years’ time?

Working with colleagues from across our European IP team to help leading life sciences companies to foster and protect innovation for the benefit of patients and overcome any legal challenges that they might face.