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Aaron Nudelman chose his career based on a childhood dream and a desire to build value.
“I was sure I’d cure cancer,” he says with a laugh. “My dad was in biotech, and I thought it was the coolest thing ever to watch him experiment in the lab. I was probably five when I decided to become a scientist, and I never wavered in that. But, when I was seven and saw my dad strategizing with his company’s lawyers in their powerful suits I told everyone, ‘That’s who I want to be . . . a science lawyer.’”
Still, Nudelman admits that his path ended up being a circuitous one, spanning multiple areas of research and even multiple continents. It was all worth it, though, for him finally to find his niche at ElevateBio, the cell and gene therapy company where he now serves as senior vice president and head of intellectual property (IP).
As ElevateBio’s first in-house IP attorney, he had the opportunity to build out not only the team itself but also the processes and procedures they follow on a daily basis. “This was a unique opportunity,” Nudelman recalls, “as I was essentially asked to set up a mini-IP boutique in-house to manage IP for ElevateBio and all of its businesses.”
ElevateBio is focused on accelerating the cell and gene therapy industry by providing the critical technologies and capabilities to bring therapies to patients faster and more efficiently. Nudelman made a point of implementing scalable systems that have accommodated the company’s tremendous growth to date and are well suited for further expansion in size and in its array of technological innovations.
Business-oriented as ever, Nudelman focused early on harmonizing the company’s IP with its business trajectory. “Things were moving quickly in a number of directions, and it was a fun challenge plugging in and getting up to speed,” Nudelman recalls. “I immediately focused my attention on learning the technology, the business, and the state of our IP, so I could ensure our patents were an asset and not just a cost.”
This meant building relationships with management and the scientists, earning their trust, and then pruning and refocusing some of the portfolio.
“In my first year, I actively killed more patents than I filed. I’m sure management [was] holding their breath and crossing their fingers,” Nudelman says with a laugh. “But to me it was simple: if our IP was misaligned with our business, it wasn’t an asset but a liability and that didn’t make sense. Now, our portfolio is rapidly growing in ways that build value for our current and future businesses.”
Aaron Nudelman has no problem staying busy outside of work. He and his wife have four children, each of whom shares his passion for science, sports, or both. “The kids are so incredibly different from one another, but there are some commonalities,” he says. “Talking science and playing sports: those have been huge bonding opportunities. It’s an excuse to spend some one-on-one time with my kids and just have fun.”
Nudelman leads the IP function with this aim of creating value, all while driving a sense of ownership among his team members. He oversees patent preparation and prosecution, IP diligence, and works on licensing deals and negotiations.
“A big part of our business is licensing the technologies that we build to third parties and entering into partnerships to grant access to those technologies,” he says. “I work with the business development team early on in that process to help determine what our business model will be and how we are going to make a particular technology available and build value for our partner and ourselves.”
In particular, Nudelman has invested quite a bit of time into Life Edit, ElevateBio’s gene editing subsidiary. “One of my earliest tasks when I came on board was to help negotiate and ultimately close the deal for ElevateBio to found our Life Edit company,” he says. “We now have two large licensing agreements for that technology that we’ve publicly disclosed, one with Moderna and one with Novo Nordisk. Those were agreements that I was involved in really from the beginning.”
To ensure that each negotiation related to IP rights aligns with ElevateBio’s strategic goals and technological capabilities, Nudelman prioritizes building trust and staying in close contact with the business development and R&D teams alike. He views cross-functional collaborations as the highlight of his role—not to mention a crucial factor in determining how he runs his own team.
Before landing in IP law, Nudelman received his PhD in pharmacology from the University of Washington and completed his postdoc at the University of Copenhagen. While there, he split his time between academic research and work as a consultant developing methods for early cancer detection in a biotech start-up spun out of the university.
“It got me interested in getting back into the business side of things,” he says of the experience. “I also read my first patent there, so I began to get a little bit interested in patent law as well.”
Nudelman’s interest in IP only grew as he learned more about the field. He tapped into his network to land a technical adviser role at the Seattle office of international law firm Cooley, where he worked full time while studying for the patent bar and attending law school at night.
“I had been at Cooley for around eight years when one of my clients, ElevateBio, and its portfolio company at that time, AlloVir, came knocking to get me to move in-house,” Nudelman explains. “I had been handling all of AlloVir’s portfolio as outside counsel as well as a number of matters for ElevateBio, and I ended up going in-house with them right before AlloVir’s IPO.”
Following his facilitation of the IPO, Nudelman has continued to manage IP for AlloVir, in addition to Elevate and its subsidiaries.
With new innovations come new pieces of IP—and fresh reminders of why Nudelman went into biotech in the first place. “AlloVir has clinical-phase products, and we’ve published data on their efficacy,” he says. “Seeing these products actually save lives is incredible.”
He may never cure cancer, or any disease for that matter, but for Nudelman, the reward of working with ElevateBio, AlloVir, and all its affiliates and partners who are working tirelessly to save lives is just as worthwhile.
Womble Bond Dickinson is proud to partner with the word class team at ElevateBio, helping them to achieve their goal of harnessing human cells and genes to treat diseases. Specifically, we congratulate Aaron Nudelman for his accomplishments and dedication to their mission and look forward to our continued success.