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Amy Mahan, Ph.D.

A Journey from Neuroscience to Patent Law

Wi-Stars Graduation: December 2016

Amy’s background

Amy’s passion in science was neuropsychiatry. As a graduate student at Emory University, she studied the molecular mechanisms underlying post-traumatic stress disorder. She followed the natural academic path and completed her postdoctoral training at Harvard University. While in Boston, a major hub of biomedical research and bio-pharma, Amy was exposed to opportunities beyond the research lab, giving her a broader perspective on career possibilities in science. She decided to explore alternative science careers and found a position at a law firm doing patent prosecution for biomedical clients. There, Amy was constantly exposed to new discoveries and a broad array of technologies, and she learned how the commercialization of scientific innovation works. Through this gained perspective, she realized she could see further along the path leading from bench to bedside. Amy then went back to school, this time to pursue a law degree at the University of Pennsylvania.

How she became a Wi-Star

Law school brought Amy to The Wistar Institute via the Detkin Intellectual Property Clinic at Penn Law, in which Amy was enrolled as a student-attorney and Wistar was a client. While working in the clinic, Amy was connected with Wistar’s Business Development team, who was planning to recruit a law student for an internship the following semester. Amy happened to be the perfect match, as she possessed the appropriate science and law backgrounds, so she enrolled in the Wi-Stars Program.

The Wi-Stars experience

While at Wistar, Amy helped the Business Development team deal with patent law issues by looking at specific terms and designing the language for licensing agreements. In exchange, she had the opportunity to learn more about intellectual property applications in life sciences and the commercialization of discoveries taking place at the bench. While following Wistar’s patent applications, she gained a firsthand view of Business Development’s interactions and negotiations with external companies and scientists, learning how their shared motivation shapes the licensing agreement.

“The most valuable aspect of the internship was the exposure to the whole process of developing licensing agreements and the opportunity to experience firsthand how the team strategizes their work,” said Amy. “The work at Wistar greatly helped me to develop my patent law skills and learn what part of the academic subjects I studied in law school is actually relevant to the problems that pertain this type of environment.”

Amy has a job offer at a law firm in Chicago waiting for her once she graduates and passes the Bar Examination. Thanks to the Wi-Stars internship, she has a better perspective of what her future clients expect and value in a patent lawyer.