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Advising clients on a broad range of life sciences matters, Sarah Cowlishaw supports innovative pharmaceutical, biotech, medical device, diagnostic and software technology companies on regulatory, compliance, transactional, and legislative matters.

Sarah has particular expertise in advising on legal issues presented by digital health technologies, helping companies navigate regulatory frameworks while balancing challenges presented by the pace of technological change over legislative developments.

Sarah is a co-chair of Covington’s multidisciplinary Digital Health Initiative, and is the Graduate Recruitment Partner for Covington’s London office.

Sarah regularly advises on:

  • classification determinations for software medical devices, including on developments resulting from the implementation of the EU Medical Devices Regulation;
  • legal issues presented by digital health technologies including artificial intelligence;
  • general regulatory matters for the pharma and device industry, including borderline determinations, adverse event and other reporting obligations, manufacturing controls, and labeling and promotion;
  • the full range of agreements that span the product life-cycle in the life sciences sector, including collaborations and other strategic agreements, clinical trial agreements, and manufacturing and supply agreements; and
  • regulatory and commercial due diligence for life sciences transactions.

Sarah’s pro bono work includes advising the Restoration of Appearance and Function Trust (RAFT) on the classification of a wound healing product containing human blood derivatives, and assisting in a project aimed at improving regulatory systems for clinical trials of drugs and vaccines for neglected diseases in developing countries.

Sarah has been recognized as one of the UK’s Rising Stars by Law.com (2021), which lists 25 up and coming female lawyers in the UK. She was named among the Hot 100 by The Lawyer (2020) and was included in the 50 Movers & Shakers in BioBusiness 2019 for advancing legal thinking for digital health.

Sarah has undertaken several client secondments, including to the in-house legal department of a multinational pharmaceutical company.

The UK has reaffirmed its commitment to leading the way in regulatory innovation in software as a medical device (“SaMD”) and artificial intelligence as a medical device (“AIaMD”).  On 17 October 2022, the UK Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (“MHRA”) published its Guidance on “Software and AI as a Medical Device Change Programme

The Medical Device Coordination Group (“MDCG”) has published a new position paper (MDCG 2022-14) acknowledging the significant and urgent lack of capacity of EU notified bodies.  It acknowledges the risk that this could lead to many existing and new medical devices and in vitro diagnostic medical devices (“IVDs”) not

On 27 October 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”), Health Canada, and the United Kingdom’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (“MHRA”) (together the “Regulators”) jointly published 10 guiding principles to inform the development of Good Machine Learning Practice (“GMLP”) for medical devices that use artificial intelligence and machine learning (“AI/ML”).

Purpose

AI

The Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (“MHRA”) has published a “Consultation on the future regulation of medical devices in the United Kingdom” (the “Consultation”), which will run until 25 November 2021.  The consultation sets out proposed changes to the UK medical device regulatory framework with the aim to “develop

On 23 March 2020, the Department of Health and Social Care (“DHSC”) issued a plea to technology companies to come up with digital support solutions for COVID-19.  The DHSC is making £500,000 available, with funding of up to £25,000 per company.  The challenge, named TechForce19, aims to increase community support for the elderly, vulnerable

In this final instalment of our series of blogs on the European Commission’s plans for AI and data, announced on 19 February 2020, we discuss some potential effects on companies in the digital health sector. As discussed in our previous blog posts (here, here and here), the papers published by the European Commission cover broad concepts and apply generally — but, in places, they specifically mention healthcare and medical devices.

The Commission recognizes the important role that AI and big data analysis can play in improving healthcare, but also notes the specific risks that could arise given the effects that such new technologies may have on individuals’ health, safety, and fundamental rights. The Commission also notes that existing EU legislation already affords a high level of protection for individuals, including through medical devices laws and data protection laws. The Commission’s proposals therefore focus on addressing the gap between these existing rules and the residual risks that remain in respect of new technologies. Note that the Commission’s proposals in the White Paper on AI are open for public consultation until 19 May 2020.

Continue Reading European Commission’s Plans for AI and Data: Focus on Digital Health (Part 4 of 4)

The EU’s regulatory rules for medical devices are due to change on 26 May 2020, when the new Medical Device Regulation (“MDR”)[1] comes into effect.  The regime for in vitro diagnostic devices will change two years later from 26 May 2022 when the In Vitro Diagnostic Devices Regulation (“IVDR”)[2] will apply.

In advance of these changes, the EU Medical Device Coordination Group (“MDCG”) has recently published guidance on the Qualification and Classification of Software in the MDR and IVDR (the “Guidance”).

The aim of the Guidance is to assist manufacturers with interpreting the new Regulations to assess whether their software meets the definition of a medical device or an in vitro diagnostic device (i.e., “qualification”); and if so, what regulatory class the software would fall under (i.e., “classification”).

The MDCG is a coordination group established under Article 103 of the MDR, comprising up to two medical device experts from each EU Member State.  Its key functions include contributing to the development of guidance to ensure effective and harmonized implementation of the EU’s new medical device rules.  The Guidance is not legally binding nor does it necessarily reflect the official position of the European Commission.  However, given the MDCG’s important role in the regulatory landscape, the Guidance is likely to be highly persuasive.

Continue Reading EU Medical Device Coordination Group Publishes Guidance on the Qualification and Classification of Software under Upcoming Medical Device Regulations

Our clients increasingly apply agile product and business development methodologies when they are developing digital health solutions.  “Ideation” is the part of that process and involves the rapid identification and creation of ideas for digital health solutions, which are then prototyped and tested.  Covington has created a Top 10 Questions for Ideation of Digital Health

On 13 August 2019, the European Commission opened a call for expression of interest to relaunch the eHealth Stakeholder Group with a view to supporting the “digital transformation of healthcare in the EU”. The eHealth Stakeholder Group was first launched in 2012 and in its first iteration (between 2012 and 2015), contributed to the development

France’s medicines regulator, the Agence Nationale de Sécurité du Médicament et des Produits de Santé (ANSM), has released draft guidelines, currently subject to a public consultation, setting out recommendations for manufacturers designed to help prevent cybersecurity attacks to medical devices. Notably, the draft guidelines are the first instance of recommendations released by