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Sarah Cowlishaw

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.

On May 21, 2024, the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (“MHRA”) published a statement of policy intent for UK recognition of international regulatory approvals of certain medical devices (the “Statement”).  The Statement follows the Government response to the 2021 consultation on the future regulation of medical devices in the UK that details an intention to introduce alternative routes to market for medical devices, such as utilizing approvals from other countries and Medical Device Single Audit Program (“MDSAP”) certificates, in addition to the current UK Conformity Assessed (“UKCA”) marking process.

The MHRA has already taken similar steps in the medicines space, adopting a new International Recognition Procedure (“IRP”) in January 2024.

In relation to devices, the Statement applies to certain medical devices placed on the market in Great Britain.  For relevant devices, the MHRA proposes to recognize foreign approvals from regulators in Australia, Canada, EU/EEA and USA (which is a smaller number of acceptable regulators than under the MHRA’s IRP for medicines).  The Statement expressly excludes a number of medical devices from international recognition, including software as a medical device (“SaMD”) (including AI as a medical device (“AIaMD”)) and companion diagnostic products approved via US 510(k) (a route which relies on equivalence to a predicate).

The proposed framework is a draft and the final version is expected to come into force in 2025 at the same time as future core regulations.  It also remains the government’s intention to introduce transitional arrangements for UKCA marked devices at the same time.Continue Reading UK MHRA Announces Intention To Recognize Certain International Approvals For Certain Medical Devices

On April 30, 2024, the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (“MHRA”) outlined its strategic approach (“Approach”) to artificial intelligence (“AI”).  The Approach is a response to the UK Government’s white paper: a pro-innovation approach to AI regulation and subsequent Secretary of State letter of 1 February 2024, and is the culmination of 12 months’ work by the MHRA to ensure the risks of AI are appropriately balanced with the potential transformative impact of AI in healthcare.

AI in Healthcare

AI has the potential to revolutionize the healthcare sector and improve health outcomes at every stage of healthcare provision – from preventative care through to diagnosis and treatment.  AI can help in research and development by strengthening outcomes of clinical trials, as well as being used to improve the clinical care of patients by personalizing care, improving diagnosis and treatment, enhancing the delivery of care and health system efficiency, and supplementing healthcare professionals’ knowledge, skills and competencies. Continue Reading MHRA Outlines New Strategic Approach to Artificial Intelligence

On April 22, 2024, the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (“EFPIA”) issued a statement on the application of the AI Act in the medicinal product lifecycle. The EFPIA statement highlights that AI applications are likely to play an increasing role in the development and manufacture of medicines.  As drug development is already governed by a longstanding and detailed EU regulatory framework, EFPIA stresses that care should be taken to ensure that any rules on the use of AI are fit-for-purpose, adequately tailored, risk-based, and do not duplicate existing rules.  The statement sets forth five “considerations”:Continue Reading EFPIA Issues Statement on Application of the AI Act in the Medicinal Product Lifecycle

In early March 2024, the EU lawmakers reached agreement on the European Health Data Space (EHDS).  For now, we only have a work-in-progress draft version of the text, but a number of interesting points can already be highlighted. This article focuses on the implications for “wellness applications” and medical devices; for an overview of the EHDS generally, see our first post in this series.

The final text of the EHDS was adopted by the European Parliament on 24 April 2024 and is expected to be formally adopted by the European Council in the coming months.Continue Reading EHDS Series – 4: The European Health Data Space’s Implications for “Wellness Applications” and Medical Devices

On March 11, 2024, the UK Government published its response (“Government Response”) to an independent review on equity in medical devices commissioned by the Department of Health and Social Care (“Review”).  The Government Response is not guidance nor policy rather it is intended to act as an action plan for tackling potential bias in the design and use of medical devices.  The Government Response fully accepts, and in turn makes a series of commitments in response to, the findings of the Review (which is broken down into 18 recommendations, 51 sub-recommendations, and 3 further calls to action).  Importantly, the Government “wholeheartedly agrees…that medical technology should be unbiased and equitable.” 

Bias in the medical device space, and within healthcare more broadly is (quite rightly) a topic of growing importance to governments, regulators and industry alike.  We set out some key points of interest from both the Review and the Government Response below.  We look forward to seeing more developments and guidance in this area going forwards given its significance to patients and the delivery of healthcare.  Continue Reading UK Government Outlines New Action to Tackle Biases in Medical Devices

On December 5, 2023, the Spanish presidency of the Council of the EU issued a declaration to strengthen collaboration with Member States and the European Commission to develop a leading quantum technology ecosystem in Europe.

The declaration acknowledges the revolutionary potential of quantum computing, which uses quantum mechanics principles and quantum bits known as “qubits” to solve complex mathematical problems exponentially faster than classical computers.

The declaration was launched with eight Member State signatories (Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Slovenia, and Sweden), and invites other Member States to sign. By doing so, they agree to recognize the “strategic importance of quantum technologies for the scientific and industrial competitiveness of the EU” and commit to collaborating to make Europe the “’quantum valley’ of the world, the leading region globally for quantum excellence and innovation.Continue Reading Quantum Computing: Action in the EU and Potential Impacts

Hot on the heels of recent announcements from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (see our prior blogs here), the European Medicines Agency (“EMA”) has joined the conversation on the use of Artificial Intelligence (“AI”) and Machine Learning (“ML”) technologies in the medicinal product lifecycle.

AI and ML have the potential to enhance every

To avoid a real and imminent risk of shortages of devices on the EU market, the European Commission recently adopted Regulation (EU) 2023/607, extending the transitional provisions in Regulation (EU) 2017/745 (the “MDR”) and removing the sell-off period in the MDR and Regulation (EU) 2017/746 (the “IVDR”).  The Commission has published a Q&A on the practical aspects of the latest changes (the “Q&A”).  We set out the top 10 questions to think about when assessing how the changes to the MDR and IVDR may impact you and your medical devices.
Continue Reading How do the recent changes to the MDR and IVDR impact you and your medical devices?  — Top 10 Questions

Last week, Jeremy Hunt, Chancellor of the Exchequer, published his Spring Budget for the UK.  It identified life sciences and digital technologies as “high growth sectors,” which the UK Government wishes to prioritize.  Among other things, the Budget outlined the Government’s plans to simplify medicines and technology approvals, plus changes to the regulation

Innovative digital solutions intended to address health issues typically experienced by women have been an area of increased focus.  Ranging from reproductive-related mobile applications to AI-enabled breast cancer screening devices, digital solutions for women+ health show promise to serve an enormous market with medical needs that have often failed to get the level of attention