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Cooley Adds FDA Enforcer Amid Life Sciences Boom (Corrects)

April 6, 2021, 10:00 AM; Updated: April 7, 2021, 5:57 PM

Cooley has recruited Sonia Nath from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration chief counsel’s office, the latest in a series of notable Big Law hires in life sciences and pharmaceutical practices.

Nath, who handled enforcement efforts across a range of products regulated by the FDA, will be a partner in Cooley’s business litigation and healthcare regulatory practice groups.

“Cooley is a life sciences powerhouse, and is looking to grow in the regulatory area, which made it a good choice for me,” Nath said, in an interview.

Many in Big Law have predicted life sciences will continue to be a high-growth practice this year as the highly regulated pharmaceutical field faces ongoing challenges like pricing and new challenges around specialty drugs. Covid-19 has also put pharma, healthcare, and related industries in the spotlight.

According to Decipher, a St. Louis-based competitive intelligence firm that provides due diligence for Big Law recruitment, there were 179 life sciences partner lateral hires among Am Law 200 firms from September through February. This comprised roughly 14.5% of all lateral hires made in that six month span.

Firms hiring in the space most recently include King & Spalding, which brought on Eva Temkin, a former FDA official who worked on biologics and biosimilars policy at the agency, and Latham & Watkins, which picked up Hogan Lovells partner Christopher Schott, who works with drug companies on compliance matters.

Washington-based Nath spent almost a dozen years as an enforcement attorney at the FDA, and was senior counsel in the agency’s Office of the Chief Counsel. She handled matters involving pharmaceuticals, medical devices, conventional foods, dietary supplements, over-the-counter drugs, animal drugs, and biologics. She negotiated dozens of civil consent decrees for the government and defended the FDA in lawsuits brought by companies.

In the past four years, Nath also helped handle criminal prosecutions of FDA-regulated products under a Department of Justice appointment as special assistant U.S. attorney with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Central District of California.

“With her unparalleled FDA regulatory knowledge and enforcement experience, Sonia will enhance our regulatory capabilities and broaden the scope of our global life sciences practice, enabling us to better meet the current and anticipated needs of our ever-expanding client base at all stages of their growth,” said Kay Chandler, chair of Cooley’s life sciences industry practice, in an interview.

Cooley’s client base, said Chandler, includes companies making drugs, medical devices and biologics as well as digital health companies.

“It’s the intersection of health and technology that is new and expanding, and also the use of new and different technologies” that is driving the growing practice, said Chandler.

A firm statement said Cooley has represented leading global life sciences companies for over 40 years, including investors, providers, companies, and health IT. Cooley has been the leading firm in issuer-side life sciences IPOs since 2000, it said.

Since 2018, the firm has worked on more than 142 life sciences IPOs, including 18 so far this year, said Christian Plaza, global life sciences industry practice vice chair.

(Corrects number of life sciences IPOs Cooley has worked on in recent years.)

To contact the editor on this story: Elizabeth Olson in Washington at egolson1@gmail.com
To contact the reporter on this story: Rebekah Mintzer in New York at rmintzer@bloomberglaw.com

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