Arnold & Porter and Camerons join forces for US biotechnology work

CMS Cameron McKenna and Arnold & Porter are working alongside each other in a client-sharing pact which was brought about by the departure of leading practitioner Julian Thurston from Camerons.

The two firms recently acted on two deals, the AIM listing announcement of ReNeuron and for the Cambridge Antibody Technology Group on its alliance with US company Genzyme Corporation.

The decision to work together came about when Camerons’ head of commercial technology Thurston departed, along with his team, for Arnold & Porter last December.

Thurston had to serve six months gardening leave before joining the firm in the summer. He is still under covenant, but none of his team were partners, which means they are free from restrictive covenants and are able to act for the client.

Cambridge Antibody Technology is one of the UK’s leading biotechnology companies. It was established 10 years ago and floated in 1997. It now has a market capitalisation of £1.4bn.

Camerons has been the company’s main external adviser since Thurston first won the client. Mewborn Ellis, Mills & Reeve and Wragge & Co also undertake work for the group. But prior to Thurston joining Arnold & Porter, the US firm had not been instructed by Cambridge Antibody Technology.

Thurston explains that his team is doing the licensing and collaborative agreements for the company. “Camerons has been retained to do the corporate work, and there are a number of clients like that,” he says.

Arnold & Porter is currently without a UK corporate capability, although Thurston is a leading practitioner in his specialised field of life sciences.

He had been with Camerons since qualifying in 1979, making partner seven years later, and was instrumental in establishing and developing Camerons’ leading life sciences practice.

But he left the firm due to concerns that it was not doing enough to capture the US market, which is particularly relevant to Thurston’s practice area.

Thurston is not surprised that clients are now choosing to use Arnold & Porter as well. He says: “My assistants have a lot of close relationships. They’re small clients and there’s a personal element to it.”

Thurston’s team does a range of licensing work, but specialises in collaboration, development and licensing agreements between biotechnology companies and the giants of the pharmaceutical world.

ReNeuron, for example, is a smaller biotechnology company that is currently developing a treatment for stroke victims by using embryonic tissue.

Thurston says: “[ReNeuron] used to be a client of Camerons. I couldn’t be involved, but we’re now building up our work with these young companies.”