What has been your career highlight to date?
It’s really hard to pick just one! I think any project where you get to have a real impact and help your clients achieve their commercial goals is a highlight. Over my career I’ve worked on multi-year projects with academic institutions and inventors, to help them build a comprehensive portfolio from scratch, and collaborated with a commercial partner or spinout to get their innovation into the clinic. Other memorable projects can be more time-pressured, for example, running large due diligence projects to support M&A deals. Two very different types of work, both extremely rewarding.
You have won acclaim for your expertise in biotechnology – how do you expect the UK biotech sphere to evolve in the next five years?
Current global economic headwinds mean that investor confidence has been lower in recent months compared with the post-pandemic surge. It remains to be seen whether this investor caution will ease in the short term, but over the next few years hopefully market buoyancy will return. In terms of subject matter, I expect innovation around advanced therapeutic medicinal products (ATMP) will continue. The influence of AI in the biotech space, particularly for drug discovery, will continue, which will also lead to more collaborations between AI-focused businesses and pharma players. There is a growing appreciation that current bottlenecks in ATMP manufacture could be improved not only with more biomanufacturing facilities, but also improvements to relevant techniques and systems, and I expect innovations in this space to increase.
You have worked with clients of all sizes – from university technology transfer organisations to international corporations. How do you tailor your approach depending on the type of firm that you are dealing with?
As there is no one size fits all strategy to intellectual property, the first step is always to take the time to understand a client’s innovation and its place within their business. Armed with that knowledge, I can help any client – large or small – devise an IP strategy that furthers their commercial goals. For smaller clients, I understand that IP costs are a significant part of their budget, and work with them to make sure that they extract as much value from their innovation and IP as possible – this may include focused, bespoke filing strategies and carefully targeted contentious actions. For larger clients, I can work with them to devise multi-layered global protection, comprehensively map the IP landscape in their sector and help them devise an IP pipeline that moves in lockstep with their route to market, factoring in data exclusivity and competitor intellectual property.
Do you think trade secrets are overlooked as a method of IP protection? If so, how can companies remedy this?
Not necessarily, but I do think that smaller companies can feel pressured by potential investors to have ‘hard intellectual property’, and find it difficult to persuade them that an IP strategy reliant on trade secrets can be strong and valid. Given the increasing involvement of AI in biotech research, I expect trade secrets will play a greater role in IP portfolios in the future, allowing companies to protect their AI/ML model, proprietary training data, amongst other aspects. What is important is helping companies understand the value of AI, and working to develop a strong, multi-faceted IP strategy. Giving companies confidence and ownership of their intellectual property will help them explain their strategy to investors, including the use of trade secrets when appropriate. It is also important to help companies establish robust policies and procedures for handling trade secrets to help build this confidence.
What does inspiring leadership look like at Mathys & Squire, and how has this evolved over the last decade?
Inspirational leaders are value driven with a keen sense of responsibility for both their own actions and behaviour, but also for their team. They understand their own strengths and weaknesses and do not hide from feedback but look for opportunities to grow and improve. They seek to support their team to grow and are motivated by their team’s success. I think we are lucky at Mathys & Squire that our partners are passionate about helping every team member reach their potential, acknowledging that our firm cannot succeed without our team members thriving. In the last decade, our leadership increasingly focused on creating an inclusive working environment where everyone is treated with dignity and respect, allowing their team to bring their authentic selves to work.
The “commercially savvy” Anna Gregson works in Mathys & Squire’s life sciences team, with formidable expertise in the biotech field. She is recommended in the latest IAM Patent 1000, IAM Strategy 300 and The Legal 500. Dr Gregson specialises in devising comprehensive, multilayered protection around her clients’ innovations, as well as freedom to operate advice. She has experience in a range of subject matter including therapeutic antibodies, plant biotechnology, advanced therapy and stem cells.