Alumna finds rewarding career path in biotechnology intellectual property
Jessica Jamieson ’97 is reminded nearly every day of just how important the work she and her colleagues do in the patent department at Shire, a leading international biotechnology company that serves people affected by rare diseases and highly specialized conditions. As head of the Hematology Intellectual Property division, she sees how lifelong treatments developed by the company have helped individuals suffering from disease like hemophilia lead longer, more active lives.
“It is exceedingly rewarding to start supporting a project when it is in the early stages, when you don’t know whether the lead compounds are going to actually work, and to see that project develop over time to the point where it is eventually an approved drug,” she said. “Often with very serious diseases, especially with hemophilia, these drugs can greatly improve the patients’ lives, and that’s something that is incredibly rewarding to see.”
As the head of Hematology IP, Jamieson manages the company’s Factor Eight portfolio, which includes some of its most important biologic products. She manages a team of Hematology IP counsel and is responsible for working with outside law firms around the globe on clearance for their drug products to ensure they have freedom to operate. In addition to her day-to-day duties, Jamieson also sits on a large governing body for hematology, where she provides intellectual property support.
Somedays the workday starts early for Jamieson with conference calls to colleagues in Europe. Other times they end late with discussions with her Asian counterparts. Though the actual work varies from day to day, part of what makes it interesting is the competitive nature of the industry, she said.
“It is challenging and fun to help with the development of a product where there are a lot of close competitors and a lot of companies working with very similar technologies in the same space in a similar time frame,” she explained. “Generating intellectual property, making sure we have freedom to operate and can help keep those products on track and on time in a very competitive situation is challenging and also very rewarding. It takes a tremendous amount of strategic thinking and hard work by a lot of people.”
Becoming an attorney was always a possibility for Jamieson, who was inspired by her father, W. David Jamieson ’69. But although Jamieson has found a career she is both passionate about and finds intellectually stimulating, becoming a patent attorney wasn’t what she originally pictured herself doing after law school.
“I took an unusual path into patent law. I went into law school not even knowing about patent law, not knowing it existed,” she said. “Between college and law school I was in the Peace Corps and I actually entered law school thinking I would earn a law degree and then perhaps go into the diplomatic corps. It was actually the influence of two classmates who were going through law school to become patent attorneys that initially piqued my interest in the field. As they started to explain more about it, I thought it was really interesting. Over the course of my first and second year, I decided to make the change into what would be a very different career.”
Working with the faculty and administration at both the College of Law and the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Jamieson was able to take a series of biochemistry classes in addition to her regular law school curriculum. She enjoyed the experience so much she decided to pursue a master’s degree in biochemistry after graduating with her juris doctorate.
“I always liked science, but I didn’t have nearly enough of a background in science to get into a master’s program, so it was on the great generosity of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and with great support from the College of Law that they allowed me to take some biochemistry classes in law school to let me figure out if I wanted to try to take that career path. After I finished law school, the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry admitted me to the master’s program with the requirement that I take some additional back courses,” she said. “I took the bar and then essentially walked into an intensive biochemistry science program, which was an inspiring, challenging, and daunting task. It was a lot of work, but it was really rewarding.”
While many find their way to patent law as a second career, after going straight from law school into the biochemistry master’s program, Jamieson landed her first job as a junior associate at Darby & Darby, a well-known intellectual property practice in New York, following graduation. From there she moved onto Goodwin Proctor, where she specialized in pharmaceutical litigation. When she decided she wanted to go in-house to further specialize, she joined King Pharmaceuticals, which was later purchased by Pfizer.
Several years later, she took another look at her career path and decided to move back to the Midwest to be closer to family. When she was offered a position with Baxter, she leapt at the opportunity to join the Fortune 500 global pharmaceutical company based out of Chicago.
“I was looking for a new challenge and hoping to move back to the Midwest, and they offered me the position. I really liked the people so I joined their small pharmaceutical molecule side of the company and then switched over to the biologic side,” she said.
When Baxter eventually decided to split its operations, the biologic operations, which made up about 42 percent of the company, became Baxalta. As of this summer, Baxalta officially became part of Shire.
Jamieson said part of what she enjoys most about working for Shire is the supportive, encouraging atmosphere she walks into every day.
“Both companies are incredibly supportive of having women in these types of roles and I think that always makes for such a great environment,” she said. “I hope the work I do, and the work the other patent attorneys in our patent department do, inspires others, in particular women, in the long term to enter into the patent field.”