Battling for The Biotechs Industry Discovers It Has a True Ally in Patent Attorney Stephanie Seidman
urrounded by 4-inch-thick legal files on her desk and credenza, patent attorney Stephanie L. Seidman works simultaneously on two computers, doing research for her biotechnology company clients.
Seidman occasionally glances up to look out the window of her seventh-floor office in University Towne Centre and to answer questions as she also replies to E-mail that pours into her computers.
Seidman, a member of the law firm of Heller, Ehrman, White & McAuliffe, admits she is busy all the time, occasionally putting in as many as 100 hours of work a week. She says she finds that the most interesting part of her life is her work.
“My pace is set by all the clients who have questions. It’s a continuous stream of phone calls and E-mail,” she said, adding that in one work day recently, she received more than 50 electronic letters from clients.
Reflecting on her own personal success, she also has encouragement for those with degrees in science who are considering legal careers: Do it, because there is a strong demand for those who can combine the disciplines of science and law. This is particularly true in San Diego, with its large biotechnology and high-tech business community, she said.
Seidman, 50, who holds several college degrees, says she has found career success in interfacing her scientific expertise with her knowledge of law. She received her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from William Smith College in Geneva, N.Y.; and a master of science in chemical physics and a doctorate in molecular biology-biochemistry from Indiana University at Bloomington.
She also holds a Juris Doctor from the Catholic University of America, Columbia School of Law in Washington, D.C.
A weak job market for those trained in the biosciences prompted her to enter the legal profession in the mid-1980s, she says.
“I learned patent attorneys need to be scientists,” Seidman says. “I thought it would be a good use of the education I already had.”
She already had achieved some career success as a scientist, spending two years at the National Institute of Arthritis, Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases as a research fellow.
Before that, she completed a two-year fellowship with the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
Utilizing methods of modern molecular biology, she investigated gene regulation in viruses. She also studied ribosomal RNA processing and researched cloning the genomic DNA that encodes RNA, she says.
Seidman, who moved to San Diego in 1991, says she saw tremendous career opportunities in representing local biotechnology companies seeking patent approval. The process, which usually takes three years, can sometimes take as long as a decade, she adds.
Among her clients are San Diego-based Nanogen Inc. and Sequenom Inc.
“Biotech is starting to bloom again,” she says. “People are getting FDA approval (for their drugs), but it is still an industry in its infancy.”
To her, agricultural biotechnology offers tremendous profit potential for those who form companies to exploit new discoveries. Genomics, the study of genes, also offers profit potential, because as more genes are discovered, companies have sprung up to take advantage of research to design diagnostic tools and discover new drugs.
The Great Neck, N.Y., native attributes much of her success to her parents. Her father was a psychologist, and her mother was a clothing retailer. Their nurturing and emphasis on academic success paid off for her sister as well. She’s a neuro-pathologist and professor at Stonybrook University in Stonybrook, N.Y.
Seidman, a La Jolla resident, is married to Daniel Goutos, manager of information services for the law firm of Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves and Savich.
Wired for Access
Seidman admits that while having a husband who is a computer expert helps her a great deal with research, it does have its drawbacks.
“We have no furniture, but we do have seven computers and are wired for fiber-optic Internet access,” she says.
Seidman says her only interest in life outside of work is running on a treadmill. She’s been running for about 25 years now and used to compete in marathons.
Her favorite author is the late science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein. She admits, however, that in recent years her reading has been confined to best-sellers. She also admits that it can frequently be difficult to get away from her work. Seidman sometimes awakens in the middle of the night to find solutions to her clients’ problems.
It’s paid off with high praise from her biotech industry clients.
“Sequenom feels our patent portfolio is protected through the careful prosecution of our patents by Stephanie,” says Dr. Debbie Robertson, director of intellectual properties for the company. “She is a tremendously intelligent, professional and a person with whom we have a very good working relationship.”
Sanford Madigan, senior director of corporate development and strategic planning for X-Ceptor Therapeutics Inc. of San Diego, worked with Seidman while he was employed by Sibia Neurosciences Inc. of San Diego.
“We were very happy with Stephanie,” he says. “We had a number of different technologies that Stephanie worked on , everything from genes to chemicals to machines and drug discovery assays.”
“I think she was very helpful in formulating what the inventions were actually, and was actively involved in prosecuting the issue at the U.S. Patent and Trademark office,” he adds. “She is a very bright person who is very dedicated to her work and her clients.”
Their comments were echoed by Dr. Tina Nova, president of San Diego-based Nanogen Inc.
“She’s excellent. I worked with her when I was at Selective Genetics and she is very hard-working and extremely productive and thorough. Most importantly, she gets the patents she applies for.”
Nova adds Seidman is very client-oriented and her ability to write patent applications and get them approved is outstanding.