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Covid Test Startup Cue, Vaccine Company Moderna Nab New Lawyers

Feb. 26, 2021, 6:22 PM

Cue Health Inc. and Moderna Inc., two companies watching their businesses grow amid the coronavirus pandemic, have recruited several lawyers to their ranks.

Erica Palsis joined Cue this month as its first-ever general counsel, said Dulari Amin, a spokeswoman for the San Diego-based diagnostics company. Moderna, now planning to provide boosters to combat new strains of Covid-19, continued to bolster its in-house expertise by recently hiring a new litigation chief in Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. assistant general counsel Neal Dahiya.

The moves come as health care and pharmaceutical companies see the commercial sides of their business soar as a result of increased investments in new drugs and a spike in mergers and acquisitions activity in the life sciences space.

Moderna disclosed Thursday that it’s secured $18.4 billion worth of signed agreements for its two-dose vaccine for Covid-19. Cue benefited from an influx of cash last year after finalizing a $481 million investment from the Department of Health and Human Services to help ramp up production of its rapid tests—devices used by the National Basketball Association in its “bubble” last year—for Covid-19.

Palsis spent most of the past four years at Livongo Health Inc., a digital health company where she was general counsel, corporate secretary, and privacy officer. Livongo was sold last year for $18.5 billion to virtual health care provider Teladoc Health Inc. Palsis left Livongo after the completion of its sale to Teladoc in October.

Moderna brought on Dahiya in January as a senior vice president and head of litigation. Dahiya worked nearly nine years at BMS, having previously spent almost a decade as an associate at Sidley Austin and Ropes & Gray. Legal recruiting firm Major, Lindsey & Africa handled Dahiya’s placement at Moderna.

The company’s current legal chief, Lori Henderson, is preparing to retire this year.

Expanding In-House

Other lawyers heading to Moderna so far this year are Womble Bond Dickinson of counsel Jacob Moore, who joined the company as an intellectual property counsel, and GlaxoSmithKline PLC assistant general counsel for legal operations and payer markets Kathryn Potalivo, now a North America senior counsel for commercial legal.

The new additions are the latest batch of legal recruits by Moderna, which last summer hired former GSK lawyer John Lepore to serve as its senior vice president for government engagement. Moderna subsequently added H.W. Jerome Maddox, a vice president of U.S. legal for vaccines and global commercial at GSK, to be an associate general counsel for commercial legal and public policy.

In November, Moderna hired Novartis Pharma AG senior legal counsel Lisa Kinsella to work as an associate general counsel in its European headquarters in Basel, Switzerland. Moderna currently lists at least a half-dozen job openings in its legal group on its online careers page.

A spokesman for Moderna said the Cambridge, Mass.-based company isn’t yet ready to announce a replacement for Henderson, who was hired as legal chief in 2018, shortly before Moderna went public and eight years after the company was founded.

Securities filings show that Henderson has sold off nearly $10.8 million in Moderna stock within the past year. She currently owns almost $100,000 in Moderna stock, according to Bloomberg data.

Goodwin Procter has handled corporate and securities work for Moderna, including a $500 million stock offering last year. The company has turned to Irell & Manella and Fish & Richardson to advise it on litigation and intellectual property matters.

As for Cue, its new legal chief Palsis is also its sole in-house lawyer, although the privately held company expects to build out an internal legal group.

Cue’s Amin told Bloomberg Law that Palsis joins an executive team that includes Jessica “Jessie” Wick, a former Morrison & Foerster associate who joined the company as chief of staff last summer after running an advertising agency. Wick’s new role sees her support CEO Ayub Khattak, who started the company in 2010.

Outside legal advisers to Cue include Foley & Lardner; Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr; and Best, Best & Krieger. WilmerHale and Foley & Lardner advised Cue last June on a $100 million Series C fundraising round. Best, whose roots are in Southern California, has a large health care practice.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Baxter in New York at bbaxter@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com

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