Legal Business Blogs

Rising stars: David Gibson – ‘There are so many great new technologies and medicines with potential to make a difference to populations and treatment pathways but key challenges remain in regulating them’

David Gibson, senior associate at McDermott Will & Emery

Why did you decide to specialise in life sciences law, and what’s the best thing about being a life sciences lawyer?

I find the subject matter fascinating, and I am genuinely curious about new technologies and medicines and how they can be used, shared and applied to improve healthcare for patients across the world. We are often involved in helping our clients with strategic projects and transactions, partnering with other organisations and bringing products to market and to scale – often across different jurisdictions. As a transactional and projects lawyer, I enjoy working with clients to bring the commercial, financing, regulatory and other legal elements together: it is an area of law that has a bit of everything!

What do you see as the key challenges facing the life sciences sector?

There are so many great new technologies and medicines with potential to make a difference to populations and treatment pathways but key challenges remain in regulating them in a timely, effective, and uniform way across jurisdictions and in getting them adopted quickly by healthcare providers and systems with appropriate levels of reimbursement.

These are not new issues, but industry stakeholders need strong, consistent and clear regulatory and procurement guidance at national and international level – with well-resourced regulators that are agile and engage regularly – so that they can devote and allocate resources with as much confidence and conviction as possible.

What impact do you think AI is going to have on the industry, and the role of lawyers?

In life sciences, AI is already drawing faster insights from data sets – notably in diagnostics. We are also seeing it help to streamline manufacturing processes, to process information more quickly, to improve research and clinical trial data flows and to enhance product intelligence. As a tool, it is already having a significant impact, and has enormous and exciting potential to further transform, accelerate and enhance the work of the life sciences industry.

In law, on a similar note, AI is being used to streamline due diligence and contract drafting processes, and over time, it will no doubt influence and streamline other legal processes and aspects of the roles of lawyers, including, hopefully, reducing administration!

As lawyers, we will need to adapt our practices to work with it, and AI will prove an extremely useful and time-saving tool for many legal tasks. At the same time, we need confidence in its application. Most law firms are not there yet. As our understanding of AI evolves and as its regulation/testing moves forward, we will get more comfortable. My view is that lawyers should see AI as an opportunity to improve their practices and as a useful companion, rather than as an existential threat to the profession.

What do you think are the key skills you need to succeed as a lawyer in life sciences?

A combination of up-to-date regulatory knowledge and commercial and transactional drafting skills are key elements to succeeding in this area of law, but there is plenty of room to specialise across a raft of legal areas: eg IP, data protection and industry sub-specialties such as pharma and digital health.

My work is often international in nature, and it is important to develop cross-border knowledge and to work with colleagues and counsel in other jurisdictions to get precise local input. A healthy curiosity about the life sciences industry is always important but the key ingredients are making sure that you understand your client’s business, its strategy, and its preferences and needs for the work and advice that you are providing.

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