Powell Gilbert for the Human Genome patent
DNA analysis, human genome research, and a pioneering treatment for a debilitating disease sounds more like an article in The Lancet than the crux of a case being argued before the UK Supreme Court.
But in a fascinating biotechnology patent case - the first to be heard in the highest court - boutique IP law firm Powell Gilbert was instructed by Human Genome Sciences (HGS) to help fight off a challenge by pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly.
HGS followed lead partner Penny Gilbert and her team when she left Bristows in 2007 to set up Powell Gilbert. Her work in this novel area of law, alongside associates Bethan Hopewell and Jennifer Antcliff, has established case precedent in a previously untested field. All three lawyers have degrees in molecular and cellular biology, giving the client unrivalled specialist knowledge of the scientific issues at the heart of the case.
The appeal centred on HGS discovering and registering a previously unidentified gene, but Eli Lilly argued that the patent did not disclose anything useful to the industry and tried to revoke it.
When the case reached the Supreme Court, Gilbert and her team were able to show that it was actually an important therapeutic protein and key to the development of an antibody to treat debilitating auto-immune disease lupus.
Eli Lilly had been waiting in the wings with its own later-developed antibody.
On the back of this six-year battle, Powell Gilbert has grown to 38 fee-earners, all with scientific training.