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Cooley Swipes Nelson Mullins Life Sciences IP Team in Boston (1)

May 20, 2021, 4:01 PMUpdated: May 20, 2021, 4:39 PM

Cooley is building out an already bustling life sciences practice with an all-female six-member team from Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough led by Amy Baker Mandragouras, a veteran Boston intellectual property partner.

The group of lawyers and PhD technical specialists are part of San Francisco-founded Cooley’s efforts to build out its ranks on the East Coast. The firm’s Boston office has grown from 41 to roughly 100 attorneys since it opened in 2007.

The city continues to be a major hub for life sciences, which has been an expansion target for many Big Law firms, especially over the last 12 months. Lateral hiring in the area has surged, and IP attorneys like Mandragouras who have strong ties with biotech and biopharamaceutical clients and can support deal work in the space are in high demand.

Mandragouras was a leader of the life sciences patent practice at Nelson Mullins. She was the first female chair of the executive committee at New England IP firm Lahive & Cockfield, which combined with Nelson Mullins in 2010.

Her team works with life sciences players from startups to large companies on IP strategies and patent portfolios, including protecting new products and facilitating commercialization of biopharmaceuticals. They’ve worked on the patent and IP aspects of biotechnology and pharmaceutical collaborations, acquisitions, licensing, financing transactions, and securities offerings.

Mandragouras said in an interview she’s become familiar with Cooley over the years by working alongside Boston partner-in-charge Heidi Erlacher, and has gotten to know others on the IP team like Ivor Elrifi, the New York-based chair of the firm’s global patent counseling and prosecution practice group.

“For me, I was looking for a new opportunity with a life sciences platform that would bring the depth and expertise that I didn’t have in terms of the patent attorneys and technical professionals at my current firm,” she said.

Mika Reiner Mayer, a Palo Alto, Calif-based Cooley partner who works closely with life sciences companies emphasized the scope of Cooley’s work in the industry. She said the firm works with more than 1,400 public and private life sciences companies worldwide, including more than 50% of the companies on the Nasdaq Biotechnology Index.

Big Law firms have lately been capitalizing on a red-hot transactional market for life sciences, and Cooley’s historically strong emerging companies practice has helped it seize the moment, especially when it comes to life sciences IPOs.

“The speed at which our firm is doing capital markets transactions, SPAC deals, M&A deals, it doesn’t seem to be slowing down at all,” Mayer said. “So what you’ll find is that there’s a natural synergy between those practice groups and people in the patent group who help support those transactions.”

Mandragouras said she’s excited about where life sciences is headed, especially with new technologies in the mix like gene editing therapies as well as mRNA vaccines, like those being deployed in the fight against Covid-19.

Cooley has a long list of existing Boston-based IP clients engaged in biotech research and development including Moderna Inc., Ventus Therapeutics Inc., Epizyme Inc., Mersana Therapeutics Inc, and SynDevRx. Inc.

In an emailed statement Thursday, chair of the IP law and litigation group at Nelson Mullins, Mark Dukes, wished Mandragouras well and thanked her for her contributions to the firm’s work.

“We have a strong firm-wide comprehensive life sciences practice and we will continue serving our clients from Boston and our many other offices,” he said.

Growth and Diversity

Cooley is coming off a particularly strong 2020 in which its revenue grew nearly 17% to $1.55 billion and its profits per equity partner rose by more than 25% to $3.18 million, according to Am Law data.

Lateral hiring has accompanied the financial success, including other life sciences and healthcare pickups, such as former U.S. Food and Drug Administration lawyer Sonia Nath in Washington , former King & Spalding partner Gina Cavalier in Los Angeles, and Christopher Beauduin, who now works with life sciences companies as a Cooley special counsel in New York.

The firm also launched a new office in Chicago this week with 10 partners, including lateral hires from DLA Piper, Latham & Watkins, and Winston & Strawn.

In Boston, Mandragouras’s team making the move to Cooley is comprised of attorneys Maya Elbert, Ariana Harris, and Erika Lawson Wallace, as well as technical specialists Samantha Devenport and Nitasha Bennett.

Sizable all-female teams are still a relative rarity in Big Law, particularly in the IP and patent world.

Mandragouras said she can still recall seeing no women IP partners at all at the firm where she started her career in the early 1990s. It’s an inequity she’s worked to help fix through proactively supporting women in the field, including the team she’s bringing to Cooley.

“It’s a group of all women professionals who I have hired and have been mentoring and coaching. We’re really close and I’m really excited they want to move with me,” she said.

(Adds statement from Mark Dukes in the 13th and 14th paragraphs.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Rebekah Mintzer in New York at
To contact the editor on this story: Chris Opfer in New York at

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