Sidebars

Danielle Abramson: Driven by Passion

August 23, 2021 Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP Season 1 Episode 8
Sidebars
Danielle Abramson: Driven by Passion
Show Notes Transcript

Danielle Abramson is currently SVP, Global Head of IP at RedHill Biopharma. She is a registered patent agent with an almost 20-year career in the legal field, which includes stints at several law firms where she created her own career path.

Danielle has a BS in mechanical engineering from Binghamton University, the top-ranked public university in New York. She also has a PhD in medical sciences from Brown University where her research centered on biomaterials and tissue engineering.

A diagnosis of scoliosis in eighth grade introduced Danielle to a life-long passion for science and engineering. A willingness to take risks, speak up, and consistently create new opportunities out of thin air have translated this passion into a trail-blazing career in patent law that has translated into better career paths for her fellow patent agents as well. 

In this episode, Danielle generously shares her actionable and practical blueprint for building a charmed, passion-filled career. 

 Highlights include:

  • The curve that started it all (02:14)
  • The dogs that shifted a career path (5:27)
  • The switch to biomaterials and tissue engineering (07:50)
  • Getting things done, with a light touch (10:04)
  • The dining-room-table patent law firm (11:06)
  • Dipping a toe into patent law as a tech specialist in Boston (13:34)
  • Finding a law-firm position that fits (15:40)
  • A mentor’s positioning advice to a young patent agent (17:03)
  • The value of strong relationships in building career flexibility (18:21)
  • Who says a patent agent can’t develop business? (20:42)
  • Speaking up – for the good of your client work (23:08) 
  • Setting boundaries and keeping toxic colleagues at bay (24:34)
  • Building the first-ever patent agent career track in a law firm (29:02)
  • Creating one’s own in-house position (34:30)
  • Busting myths about the life of an in-house counsel (40:10)
  • The blueprint for a dream career (45:38)
  • The value of admitting you don’t know what you’re doing and asking for help (52:03)

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**The opinions expressed are those of the attorneys and do not necessarily reflect the views of the firm or its clients. This podcast is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice.**

Danielle Abramson:

You need to surround yourself with people who have open ears, who , who are willing to hear what you have to say, who are willing to hear your concerns so that you feel like you have the opportunity, to be honest with them and say, listen, when you know, this is working, this is not working. We need to work through it together. And that was important.

April Isaacson:

Welcome to Sidebars, Kilpatrick Townsend's limited podcast series focusing on women and patent law. I'm April Isaacson , a patent litigator and Partner in the San Francisco office. And I'm Kim Davis, a patent prosecutor and Partner in the Atlanta office. We're here to discuss the gender gap in the patent bar and have candid conversations with female patent practitioners on their career paths. Welcome back to Sidebars; I'm April Isaacson. In this episode, Kim and I are interviewing Danielle Abramson. Danielle has a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Binghamton University, which is not only the number one ranked public university in New York. It also happens to be where she met her now husband and where their son will attend college in the fall. Danielle has a PhD in Medical Sciences from Brown University. She is also a registered patent agent who has been working in the legal field for almost 20 years. Danielle worked at law firms in various roles for 13 years, where as you will hear , she created her own career path, which included an in-house position at RedHill Biopharma. Danielle has been with RedHill Biopharma since 2015, where she is currently Vice President of Intellectual Property and Research. Daniel Abramson, welcome to Sidebars.

Danielle Abramson:

Thank you, April and Kim; I'm thrilled to be here with you.

April Isaacson:

It's pleasure having you today. We really are so excited to have you share your story with our listeners. I want to kick things off with our opener. D anielle, what made you decide to pivot from science to law?

Danielle Abramson:

Well, I can tell you that it was definitely not in the plan that I envisioned for myself back in high school. I guess you can say that I'll give you a little bit background information on how I got into it. I found out in eighth grade that I had scoliosis curve. And at that time, my doctor had told me that I would need to wear a back brace in order to correct the curve and hopefully prevent surgery. So I'm living close to New York City. My parents found a specialist at the hospital for special surgery in Manhattan, and I went for my first appointment and my first back brace fitting. You can imagine that it's a very interesting process when you're fitted with a back brace, you are in a room , um, you're wearing a dress like ACE bandage as your , as your , uh, attire. And then you have two technicians that are basically making like a papier-mache around your body. And then you have to sit there for about 30 minutes and wait for it to harden. So, i t was going through this process and after everything was put on me and I was waiting there, I started to kind of take in the room around me and I thought, wow, this is such an interesting room. Where am I? And I happened to be in the prosthetics and orthotics lab at the hospital for special surgery. And I saw these cool prosthetic limbs and braces. And I was wondering, what is this? So I asked my technicians, what was, what, where was I, what was going on? And they had started telling me about the hospital for special surgeries, prosthetic, and orthotic laboratory and how they were helping individuals who needed, prostheses and orthopedic devices. I thought, wow, t hat's r eally cool. I got fitted. I went home with my first back brace and then I started high school. And in high school I started realizing I really l ike math and science. And I went back, I think around 10th grade for my second b race b ecause I had grown. It was, you know, growing b y puberty time. So I had grown a nd I needed a n ew back b race. And when I made the appointment, I asked them if I could actually speak to some of the engineers, c ause engineering started becoming interesting to me. I asked if I could speak to some of the engineers there. So after my fitting, I they took me into the lab and it was so cool. There w ere all these engineers behind screens with CAD programs, open and designing prosthetics. And so I went home and I just thought, wow, this is so cool. Let me find out more about this. Biomedical engineering is what they called it. So I researched biomedical engineering. I said, this is the career for me. No one in my family had been an engineer. I was going to be the first engineer. And I said, you know, I'm going to study mechanical engineering in undergrad and then go on for my PhD in biomedical engineering. I h ad made that decision.

April Isaacson:

I love that you had an experience when you were in eighth grade that made you look around the room here, you are in a hospital setting to get treatment for something, but yet you looked around and had that intellectual curiosity. What do you think it is about you that kind of made you take it all in and that type of a way?

Danielle Abramson:

Well, that's a good question. Well, I had a lot of time, time was time was on my , you know, I have a lot of time to think about it, to see what was going on. I was always very interested in curious. I always liked medicine. My father was a veterinarian. I had a lot of doctors in my family here. I was seeing something new that I had never seen before. And I just wanted to find out what it, what it was. You know, it seems so interesting. That's what made me take in the room, I guess. So I did. I finished my undergraduate in mechanical engineering and I applied for my medical engineering PhD program. And I had gotten into a great program in New Jersey. And pretty much after a few months of school, you have to really look, start looking for which lab you're going to join because the clock is ticking and I don't want to stay in grad school forever. So I knew I had a lot on my plate. So I started to look for some labs to join. And at the time, like I said, I was interested in biomechanics and orthopedics. So I found out that there was a lab in Newark, New Jersey, part of Rutgers. And I went to the lab to visit it, to see what they were doing. And I found out they were doing this really cool research project on hip prostheses and trying to make a better one. So I thought, this is great. This is exactly where I want to be. And I started asking questions and how , what was going to happen? And they said, well, the plan is we've already received the grant. And the plan is that we're going to do this great study animal study and we're going to be using dogs. And I thought, wow, we're going to be using dogs for the study. And they're like, well, we can't use rats. They're too small for prosthetics. We have to work with a larger animal. And I said, well, what happens at the end of the study? What happens to these animals? Because my father was a veterinarian and I love animals. And they said, well, at the end of this study, we're going to have to sacrifice the dogs. And I just, like, I just broke down. I left the lab and I just couldn't even like the thought of sacrificing the animals at the end really bothered me. And I was kind of in a position where he was the only lab that I wanted and I could work at that had my, you know, the field I wanted to enter, but I couldn't work with animals with dogs. So I unfortunately had to decline that position and I thought, wow, what am I going to do now? I really need to find a lab. And at the time I was taking a polymer chemistry course with a very well-renowned polymer chemist who was head of the tissue engineering and a biomaterials group at Rutgers. And I was doing very well in his class, even though I hate chemistry. But I did very well in his class and he asked me to join his lab and his lab was the lab at Rutgers. And I thought, Hmm , " I think, I could this/push this into my biomedical engineering. It's tissue engineering. I'll work it out, I'll work it out because this professor is great. And this is like the hot area tissue engineering. So let me, let me try." So I did join his lab , but I ended up actually switching and moving over to Brown University c ause I had gotten engaged and my husband to be was closer to the New Hampshire/Boston area. And so I switched over to Brown University, which is where I ended up finishing and completing my degree. And I stayed still in the area of tissue engineering, drug delivery, and b iomaterials. So I didn't lose any research time during that first year,

Kimberlynn Davis:

Danielle, one quick question. And I know you're telling us your path to patent law right now, but one question about that transition and the shift in labs, looking back, would you say that your career has been better served by pursuing the lab group in that area that you pick with the tissue engineering over the, of the biomedical engineering? Or would you say pretty much you would have ended up in the same place? Any insight on that?

Danielle Abramson:

Yeah, that's a good question. So at the time I thought it was a traumatic experience and it probably was not, it wasn't necessarily a good thing, but looking back on it, I think it was because probably had, I stayed with biomechanical engineering. I would have ended up working for and I would have been happy, but I wouldn't end up working at an orthopedic company and really becoming a biomedical engineer, which I'm not right now. So I'm , I don't know if I would have eventually veered off towards the patent field, but because I had moved so far away from it and I wanted to backtrack towards it, which I'll explain in a minute. I think that's what led me to patent law

April Isaacson:

And I always looked at you at, in terms of working with you is you're a woman on a mission. You really are. It's something you set your mind to something and you make it work, but you do it with a really kind of a light touch in a sort of a Danielle way. I will say, where do you think that comes from?

Danielle Abramson:

Well, feelings are important to me, so feelings matter. So how I treat others matter, I always treat others how I'd like to be treated. And so there's a fine line between being confident and knowing what you want to do and surrounding yourself with people who will support you rather than just going at it full force and pushing everyone out of the way while you're doing it. I don't know if that answered your question, but I think that's...

April Isaacson:

I really did because you pointed out what I see. And I know I've talked to Kim about it as well. You're , you're confident, but in a way that is just so kind of collaborative with people. So you push and you push, but in such a way that you really, everyone wants to work with you. And it's one of the things I really admire . Thank you.

Danielle Abramson:

I appreciate that. So let me tell you a little bit about , more about getting to patent law . I know you asked me that question a while ago. I'm sorry. So while I was at Brown, I was a teacher's assistant and I worked with this really awesome professor that I was his teacher's assistant for artificial organs. And in that class he had asked some people from industry to come in to talk to the undergrads about possible career paths. And one of the speakers that he invited was a partner at a patent prosecution firm in Boston. So he started talking about patent law, which piqued my interest. It sounded very cool. And then, you know , towards the end of my PhD program, I wasn't loving the research I did. And I did the , I had the passion to pursue it as a professor or as to getting grants to do pursue it. And at the same time, my husband, who was a software engineer had made the switch to patent law. So he was going to school in the evening. And during the day he was working as a technology specialist in Boston, which is a fabulous place to be for innovation. And so our dining room table turned into like a patent law firm. Like there were pens all over the table, like I was trying to eat between patents. And at first I thought, oh my gosh, I pick one up . And he's a software engineer in app development. So it was really out of my expertise, but I picked up this patent and I started looking at the claims and I'm like, how do you even understand what kind of language is this? This is crazy stuff. Like couldn't even understand it. I thought, wow. And then between him, and finally he taught , he talked to me about it during our dinner conversations. And then I'm hearing about this partner, speak about it too , to the students. And I was not passionate anymore about what I was doing. And I thought, wow, actually, this thing seems pretty cool. Like I'm always, you're finding out about the newest inventions you're working on so many different fields. You know, I have a great background in medical devices and mechanical engineering devices, consumer products, drug delivery, pharmaceuticals, maybe this is how I can get back what I been missing.

April Isaacson:

So Kim , because the texts back and looking at patents and going to law school at night, resonated all with you. I know it does.

Kimberlynn Davis:

Time, big time, but, but even before we get into that, Danielle , two patent practitioners in one household, oh my, my mind that, that makes for some interesting dinner discussions, but it can . So tell us about that. I love it. That it was your, well , it was a combination, right? Seeing your husband pursued the path, but also really taking it all in when someone, a guest lecturer or adjunct professor, whatever the case may have been in that for that particular circumstance. But when they came in and spoke about patent law and really, really taking that to heart. So I say that to encourage all of my fellow patent practitioners who go out and speak to students at universities, I mean, you , you could be speaking to the next Danielle, right? So no pressure, but , but they need to take that opportunity very seriously because it really is valuable time. So tell us about your first job you were hired as a tech spec writer .

Danielle Abramson:

So I actually reached out to that partner, right. To keep contact reached out to that partner.

April Isaacson:

Of course, of course you did. Danielle, of course.

Danielle Abramson:

And you know, he's very interested. I mean, texts back, especially in Boston was like huge. It was, they were just eating up texts back , like they wanted with a science or bio background. So it was a perfect place to be. It was a perfect time to reach out. I think he, he sent me to a colleague and said, let's interview this lady right away. I went in for an interview and I got hired and I was so excited. It was, you know, finishing up my dissertation. I had a job or ready to go. You know, this was going to be very exciting for me. So I did start off as a tech spec at Mintz Levin in Boston. And it was a great place to work. I had such great mentors there and it was exciting time for me because I was starting this new career studying for the patent bar, which was fabulous. So I, and I also got pregnant with my first child. So it was a very exciting year for me, a lot had happened.

April Isaacson:

Yeah, no, it's very Danielle that she's got all these plates spinning, but you know, it's like the duck on top of the water, everything looks calm. Cool. And collected as usual. Daniel , you mentioned mentors. Can you talk about some of the mentors along the way and how important that has been for your career path ?

Danielle Abramson:

Yeah, absolutely. So , after I had my son , I was interested in going back for part-time work and it just didn't fit in with the schedule at Mintz Levin had. So unfortunately I had to leave in Slevin and I actually had gotten recruited by a recruiter called me and said, we have a law firm in Boston. That's looking for someone 60% of the time, would you be interested? And I thought, oh, my everything's lining up. This is fabulous. Yes. So I was in their office the next day and I had the letter on Friday. I think it was you know, for employment. So I started working at this law firm and I was the, my mentor was a very Senior Associate Dave Dykeman. I'll mention him because he's mean he's such a great guy and he's very good friend now, but he really took me under his wing. He listened to me. I said, I really want med devices. He's a, he's a partner. And he's very well-known for mechanical medical devices. So , he got me involved right away with his clients. He really pushed me to not position myself as, you know, just being a patent agent. But here I am on a patent practitioner, I'm an integral member of your team. You know, he took me to client meetings, examiner, interviews, everything, and anything to try to get me very interested in the field and really to mentor me and teach me the ropes. So I worked with him for a while .

Kimberlynn Davis:

What I love about that, Danielle is you didn't mention any pressure for you to do the law school part-time and a some firms during that era had very structured paths for pet and agents or Tech [Specialist] (Tech Spec). It was become a Tech Spec, sit for the patent bar and pass and within, oh my gosh, I think they put a timeframe on it within two or three years. You had to go ahead and apply for law school and all that jazz, but you never got that pressure on your end.

Danielle Abramson:

I never got that pressure cause I made it pretty clear that I wasn't, I wasn't there yet. You know, it wasn't, it wasn't a passion of mine to be necessarily a lawyer I wanted, you know, I really liked the patent aspect of it. And , I was actually, I really was tired at the end of my graduate school. I was tired and I wasn't sure if I was ready, you know, I'm a person who gives everything. If I, if I say I'm doing something, I'm going to give it my a hundred percent and I didn't feel like I had that passion. So I made it very clear that while I liked patent law and I wanted to remain a patent agent, I had no intentions yet of going to law school, but you're right. There was a lot of pressure and I know a lot of people, and I know a lot of people who love women who pushed back having families because, you know, they got undergrad and then they got their PhD and then they got the JD and you know, so I just didn't want that at the time.

Kimberlynn Davis:

Absolutely. So tell us what happened next in your career there.

Danielle Abramson:

So I worked at Palmer and Dodge, which I know now they're another name, but at Palmer and Dodge at that time. And then I had really my whole family was in New York and New Jersey. And so I was starting to get a lot of guilt. You have a child now you should be closer to home. Why, what are you doing in Boston? It's so cold there, you know, and I have two sisters that I'm very close to and they are also in the New York area. So we started feeling the push to come back. And , um, I was a little nervous cause I really found this job that I loved and this colleague that I loved working with and I mentioned it to him that we're thinking of moving back. And he said, not a problem. We'll hire you as a consultant from wherever you live. And I , that was really a great opportunity for me because not everyone gets that. And then he saw that he had someone that was devoted to him and his clients and I, and he was just as devoted to me in my profession. So we did, we moved back to the New York, New Jersey area and he kept his promise and the firm kept their promise. I stayed on as a consultant. And , um, it was great, especially during the move, you know, and I was in , they also made it so that I could work when I needed to work however many hours. You know, if I had one particular week where we were looking for houses and I couldn't work as much, it was okay. We managed , we were able to manage my docket. Um, and then that partner left and went to another law firm and he said, don't worry, Danielle, I'm taking you with me. And this firm happens to have an office right near your house in New Jersey.

Kimberlynn Davis:

Nice.

April Isaacson:

One of the things Danielle, you're talking about these relationships and the communication, can you talk about the importance of having open and honest dialogues with your colleagues?

Danielle Abramson:

Yes, absolutely - [one] hundred percent. You need to surround yourself with people who have open ears,who are willing to hear what you have to say, who are willing to hear your concerns so that you feel like you have the opportunity, to be honest with them and say, listen, when you know, this is working, this is not working. We need to work through it together. And that was important. You know , as I moved over to Greenberg Traurig in New Jersey in the New Jersey office, like I got a job, it started off part-time. I ended up going full-time cause I really enjoyed it. And my kids were getting older and I had help at home. So I was able to do that. And along the way, I met some colleagues that weren't as nice as the others who were not there to support me and to see me grow. And I was able to quickly realize that and distance myself from them from this toxic environment. I mean, there's usually one or two people who, you know, unfortunately you don't get along with, for whatever reason, I was able to distance myself. And I met up with the Co-Chair of the patent prosecution department at Greenberg Traurig. His name is Barry Schindler another great strong male mentor who was friends with Dave as well. So, you know, we all work together really well. And Barry really also helped support me in the same way Dave had done. Barry always treated me as an associate. He gave me as much responsibility as I wanted as I could handle. And he really helped grow my practice. He helped me grow my BD skills. And that's really important to have, you know, that mentorship.

Kimberlynn Davis:

Agreed, especially on the business development angle. It's so important to hone those skills very early on. And I've noticed that there are some differences, to your point where, you know, you were treated as an associate and not as , um, someone who would have no interest whatsoever in business development, have you seen differences by firms or even within the same firm with how different partners will approach business development skills and, and the expectations, if you will, for patent agents as compared to associates, any differences that you saw?

Danielle Abramson:

Yes, definitely started off actually my first day at one of the firms where I , they were walking me to my office and I stopped off at a cubicle in the middle of a bunch of offices and they said, welcome, here's your space? And I said, I said, this is my office. And she said, yeah, this is where you're going to be sitting from now on. And, you know, I said, well , I can't work here. I mean, I I'm like I've got to focus and I have to like write these really difficult pan applications. And I have examiner interviews and I need my door closed and there's no door here. And I turned my head and two only other patent agents currently at the firm were sitting right behind me in two cubicles. And they just kind of looked at me and said, no way, I, we are, we c annot be sitting here. And I looked at t hem. I said, how are you conducting phone interviews? And how are you being able to focus and write your p atent applications? And they said, well, it's really difficult. I said, well, have you ever spoken up and asked for an office, and they hadn't. So within a few days we were all in offices, which was great.

April Isaacson:

That is so Danielle. And it's funny that you said speaking up and it takes me back to when you were talking about the toxic environment. I just want to pull that thread a little bit. What did you do to get yourself distanced from that as you, as you were talking about earlier?

Danielle Abramson:

So again, if, to make sure that you don't just work with one person, first of all, you know, it's a lot of times when you start working, they will assign you to one senior associate or one partner, but it's really nice to have a backup sort of , because unfortunately, sometimes you think you're a very easy going or easy to get along with. And for some reason that just doesn't jive. And if you're only working with one person and that person happens to, unfortunately not get along with you, then you have nowhere to go. So I try to always figure out a way to work with multiple people, at least one other person. So you have someone else who hopefully , you know, and also everyone has their different ways of writing claims and different ways of writing their, you know , applications. And, and to just take all of that is so important instead of just being, you know, learning from one individual. So I, when I had this toxic relationship, I was kind of able to pivot and I was able to go to senior management and say, you know, I'm really an easy person to get along with, but I just need some respect here. And if I don't get that basic respect, then I cannot work with this person. And to be honest with you, I don't think this person wants to work with me as well. We're just not getting along. I have A, B and C who do want to work with me. And so I'd like to please [be] taken off these matters and work. And actually something else that I didn't mention was this is again, another , another me story. So between leaving between leaving the consultancy position that I had been working with Dave and I moved to New Jersey and applying for this job at GT (Greenberg Traurig), I was at the supermarket and there was a lady in front of me in line. And she was , it was jumbling with getting her wallet out and she was on the phone. And all I heard on her phone call was we really need to find a new patent attorney. So when she got off the phone, I looked at her and I had these consulting cards, with my name on it. And I said, did you just say, you need a new patent attorney? And she said, yes. And I said, well, I happen to be a patent agent and I'm moving to a new firm. And so here's my card if you want to call me. So that started my going back to Kim's question with the business development, like always just having your ears open. I actually ended up getting that client, bringing them to Greenberg Traurig. Unfortunately the first person that I worked with was this relationship that was a toxic relationship. And the hardest part for me was having to leave that client who was now a applying of the partners. And , um , trying to explain to her nicely why I was, why I had to leave working with her. And that was very upsetting for me because I had brought that client in and the partner took it over when my relationship with the partner ended. So it's really being able to surround yourself with a number of people. And you can always say it's because you want to learn from a lot of people. You know, you want to see other how other people, you know , write their patents and how they interact and how their , their business development skills are different. Every partner works differently with, you know, and their BD skills. But I was given the opportunity with Barry to do some, some business development work, and I really liked it. And , it led me to Israel in a way because Barry was very active in the Israel high-tech and biotech space. And the last few years I was working with him at Greenberg Traurig. And so he actually wanted me, like I said, to develop my, my BD skills and to go to Israel, I've always wanted to go to Israel. So in 2013, he invited me to join him on a trip to Israel, to meet with our clients and to meet with new potential new clients. And that was a great opportunity for me.

April Isaacson:

Well, and I love the fact that you stood up for yourself and said, I'm not going to let myself be treated like this, and then had your allies around you to help you to make sure that that wasn't happening anymore. I just, I think that's a really important lesson for our younger listeners, but also for people who've been practicing awhile , because I do think that these relationships can end up being where you feel like you have to put up with it and you don't.

Kimberlynn Davis:

And what I love about it on top of it is that you fought not only for yourself, but for your peers. I mean, how thankful were they that Danielle came through the door and changed their whole work environment. So, so that's awesome to have a voice, not only for yourself, but for others. I love it.

Danielle Abramson:

Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And it actually ties into , so as I was developing at Greenberg Traurig and I was watching my colleagues around me, my patent prosecutors who mostly on a daily basis were doing the same thing I was doing over the years. I was watching them get promoted year after year. And I thought to myself, where am I going? How am I going to get promoted? You know, what happens to patent agents here? So I brought it up with Barry and some other members of the senior management team in the intellectual property department. And I said, you know, we really, law firms should have a path for patent agents to move up the ladder to feel like we belong, to feel like there is a place for us here. And that there's a way for us to get promoted. Here I am doing all this BD work, you know , lots of, lots of work helping on due diligence matters with, you know , various other teams at the firm. And what am I getting for it? I, you know, I, I have aspirations too, I have career goals as well. And luckily, because I had such supportive colleagues, they said, you know what, you're right. We should consider this. So I worked with senior management and with Barry , and we developed what we thought was the first ever patent agent track at a law firm that had, you know, various paths to go with various, you had to meet certain criteria, you know, be there for a certain number of years. And there was four tracks for patent agents. And then the fifth path would be what was equivalent to a Shareholder. So it was very exciting. It took about eight months to get through management and through senior leadership, but we made it happen.

Kimberlynn Davis:

Oh, goodness. So, so many questions about this. Let's start with question number one, if I think that the patent agent track the lifelong agent track is so appealing for so many practitioners. Can you tell us about the paths that you defined? You mentioned the four and then the one that goes to shareholder , and I know I'm putting you on the spot with this Danielle and asking you to go back some years, but, but can you briefly outline?

Danielle Abramson:

Sure. What we did was we started off, you know, HR sent us information regarding the pathway for associates and what was required for them to , to move up the levels and , and what you had to meet to get to those levels. So we looked at them and we just thought how many agents are meeting these requirements as well. So let's kind of tailor it to what the associate pathway is. And so we created these four paths. They were Patent Agent, Senior Patent Agent, Assistant Director Patent Agent, and Director, Patent Agent, which was similar to an Of Counsel type of position, which is what I reached before actually left Greenberg Traurig. And then the last final would be achieving the title of Senior Director, which was equivalent to a Shareholder position. And I believe that that was recently achieved by one of my colleagues, the first one ever at Greenberg Traurig a couple months ago.

Kimberlynn Davis:

Love it. So the path, the framework that you put forth is still in practice today across the whole firm .

Danielle Abramson:

Absolutely.

Kimberlynn Davis:

Love, love, love. Okay. So now that we've gotten that one done, how difficult was it proposing this new way of , basically a new system within the firm for patent agents, and I'm not sure how the firm previously saw patent agents. You had an opportunity to educate them, but I imagine there could be some resistance. Um, d i d you face any of that?

Danielle Abramson:

We did. We faced some resistance, mostly from people, you know , outside of the intellectual property group who didn't really understand what a patent agent was. Yeah. We were considered staff initially. We weren't invited to associate meetings. We weren't given necessarily maybe the same exact benefits as associates. I don't recall which firm that was, but you know , it's certain firms. So that, that mentality had to switch slightly of, you know , what the role of a patent agent is. And the difference between patent agents and maybe paralegals or assistance is this , you know , difference there when the technology background that we have , that , that allowed us to write patent applications and prosecuted before the USPTO. So it took some time, but I had a very supportive, at GT, very supportive management team and leadership, and they were willing to hear us out and to , and they, once they understood more of what we did and how valuable we were to the national intellectual property practice, it was pretty smooth sailing. It still takes some time to get through all the levels, but they were very supportive and I'm sure they've benefited in the long run in terms of , um, being able to recruit the top talent, if you will, when, when a package such as this is rolled out, do you present that to potential recruits for patent agents and let them know about it? It's I find it to be big ? Absolutely. It was. It , it, I, I do believe that they do present it as a very positive aspect. And as you said, there are patent agents who really do want to remain [inaudible] for the rest of the life, the life, lifelong patent agents. So it's very appealing to them to know that they could work at a law firm and they could move up professionally.

April Isaacson:

Danielle , you mentioned Barry , taking you on the trip to Israel , um, and working with some of the Israeli clients. I know one of those clients was red hill biopharma . Can you talk about how you pitched yourself to now be in the position you are as in-house?

Danielle Abramson:

Absolutely. So I did, I started working with RedHill Biopharma in, I think it was 2013. So they came to us because they were having some resistance to getting a patent application allowed at the U S PTO. And so they brought the application over to Barry and I, and, you know , we did a full review of everything and of all the prior art and the examiners comments. And we got the, into the inventors to come and have an examiner interview meeting at the pan office. And it went very well. We had the patent examiner there. We had her supervisor there and we were really able to explain what the invention was and how it was different from the prior art. And we received a notice of allowance shortly thereafter and red hill was thrilled and we were thrilled and they started to bring over kind of all their work. They were really, it was pivotal time for RedHill and their investigational drugs. And they were really wanting to file a lot of new patent applications. So they sent their entire portfolio over to us. And I had lots of calls with their R & D team and started working on their patent portfolio and building it up and within about a year and a half, I had known the entire R & D group. They were a small company at the time, so I knew the CEO, the CFO, CBO, everyone in the C-suite. And I really loved working with them. I love their technology. And at the same time I was getting really tired of working full-time for a law firm. It was exhausting. I had, I was on all the time. I was doing a lot of BD work that , um, I wasn't able to bill for. And unfortunately that was not good on my time at the end of the year, and didn't really see a management that didn't necessarily understand why it had all this BD time and I couldn't bill for it. And so that was becoming a problem. And so I, wasn't passionate about working, working so hard and getting complaints about it because of my time entries. And I didn't feel like I had that much support anymore from senior management who was looking just at numbers and not what I was producing and the work product I was producing and the clients and all the accolades that they were sending in their emails. And I said, you know, I'm tired of this. And I really love working with RedHill. I liked their portfolio. I think there's an opportunity here to go, maybe in-house and to , to start something. They didn't have an in-house position there. And at the time I was very honest with Barry , who I was working with. He knew that I was feeling these, these feelings and that I was getting burnt out. And so I think it was on a trip back from an examiner interview. We were on the Amtrak train and I, and he looked at me, he said, it doesn't look like you have the passion you once did, you know, you're , you look very tired and you know, what's going on here? And I said, Barry, you know, I I'm running out of stamina. And I I'm always having my eyes set on RedHill. I just really liked their team. Their portfolio is expanding. And I really think there's an opportunity for me to help them in -house would you mind if I asked them if they were interested in me going in-house to work with them? And he said, you know, I just want you to be happy, Danielle. And if that's going to make you happy, then I I'm giving you my blessings, go for it. So I reached out to one of the contacts at RedHill, and I said, listen, I have this idea. I have an idea. I said, your portfolio is expanding. You know, I love working with you guys. I think you're at a point where you have a need for an in-house position. And besides that, I know you also need some help on the R & D side. And since I have a PhD and I worked before in the lab, you can also use me as a, you know, for your R & D team as well, maybe. And they thought , wow, this is a great idea. Let me take it back and speak to , to everyone. And within a day or two we had an interview scheduled. They were coming into New York City to do some investor relations work and BD work. And I met with the CEO and the CFO, and I was offered the position that I created for myself, basically. I told you, Kim, isn't she amazing?

Kimberlynn Davis:

She is , oh my goodness. You are the man .

April Isaacson:

But that , but seeing her in action, because I get to work with her, I see that she does it in just like I said, this just perfect way of advocacy for herself and for her client, which is now your internal clients.

Danielle Abramson:

That's right. That's right. Exactly. So, you know , it was good because we still work with Barry at Greenberg Traurig for all of our, you know, here's our outside counsel, you know, he's known the portfolio like I have since 2012. So it's a great opportunity. I have this patent agent, or now I should say Senior Director. She was like a shareholder who works with us at Greenberg Traurig. And , um, yeah, it's, it's been a wonderful opportunity. So I've been at , at, at RedHill since 2015, where I started off as a Director of Intellectual Property and Research. And now as Vice President of Intellectual Property and Research and hopefully soon will continue my path forward.

April Isaacson:

I'm very confident that that will happen. I'd like you to talk a little bit about some of the myths that people have about in-house counsel and thinking that it's kind of this cushy, cruising kind of job, which I absolutely know it is not from my own personal experience, but from my experience working with you, can you talk about some of your roles and responsibilities?

Danielle Abramson:

Sure, absolutely. Well, RedHill is a small company, at least when I, when I went there, I think there were under 20 people who were working in their , you know , C-suite in their HR and R & D at the time we did not have a commercial operations yet. So, you know, when you work for a small company, you have to wear many hats and , and that's okay with me because I love learning. So, you know , I , obviously I manage our patent portfolio. I manage our trademark portfolio. I work hand in hand with our business development team to make sure that we are securing patent assets in the countries where we think we're going to be working with partners. I'm involved in lots of due diligence matters. We're also with our business development team where we're looking to bring in products to either develop ourselves or to, or , or products that have been already market approved and we're going to be commercializing them because now, as I said, we've had a commercial operations for about two and a half years. So I do all the diligence on those new products that we're looking to bring in. And I also, I'm part of the R & D team. And I manage, I'm a project manager for a number of clinical programs that we're working on. So right now I'm the project manager for one of our COVID-19 programs, which is very exciting.

April Isaacson:

And you also manage litigations.

Danielle Abramson:

Right. That's right. So I was leaving that part out. So , yes, recently we were involved in litigation. It's been very exciting for me to have my eyes opened up to the litigation world and to now help manage the patent litigation matters, which is great. Another thing that was exciting for us at RedHill was, so I work with Barry to write the patent application that now [ is] a huge patent portfolio that supports our and protects our Talicia® product. So Talicia® is our H. pylori treatment since two antibiotics and a proton pump inhibitor. So we wrote the patent applications for that. I w atched the R & D team conduct two pivotal studies that were required. I helped with the NDA process and getting the NDA filed, having the a pproved, having an approved w ork with our commercial team to initiate the launch activities. So I was the liaison at the company between the R & D team and the commercial team from filing our NDA all the way to launching the product. So to see a product go from, you know, writing the patent application, to getting the patent portfolio, to filing the NDA, to launching the product, and now working with the marketing team and regulatory, you know, to make sure that we're managing things properly throughout the product life cycle is very exciting.

April Isaacson:

It's, it's kind of like your baby in a way.

Danielle Abramson:

Absolutely. It is.

Kimberlynn Davis:

An experience that you likely would not have had. Of course you would not have had the same level of involvement, but had you stayed in a career that wasn't really speaking to you anymore, you would not have had these great experiences. I remember when we chatted earlier, I said, so you you're telling me, you didn't just sit and take this cushy prosecutor job in your new role. I love how you have made use of every potential opportunity and not, not just making use of what's put before you, but actually creating a path to do more.

April Isaacson:

Yeah. And the love of learning. I see that in you all the time, when I get to talk to you about litigation matters is not only do I think you call yourself that you got your Google degree, which I love you're so resourceful, but also really knowing where you don't know and asking great questions. I think that's one of the things you're an excellent listener and ask a lot of questions. Can you talk a little bit about kind of that love of learning and your, all of your intellectual curiosity, that's really helped to propel you where you today?

Danielle Abramson:

Yeah, absolutely. You know, it started, I was a late bloomer, I guess you can say. So when I was younger, I really did not like school. I was probably the youngest in my class. I started school about earlier than I'm supposed to, which so I had, my maturity level was not super, you know, it was low, the lowest probably in, unfortunately in the class because I was a year younger than everyone else. And so I didn't really care about school. I was the third child, my parent, my mom and dad hate when I say that, like I was the third child dragged everywhere. So school wasn't such a big thing. My mom doesn't like when I say that, but it's true. So my sisters were very talented and my sister was an actress. My middle sister was a ballerina. We were always going from Staten island to New York city, like every day for either , um , you know, either interviews or, or ballet classes or acting classes, whatever it was. So I was always like doing my homework in the car. It wasn't really a big deal. So I was an okay student in middle school. And I think in high school is when I really, I matured. And like I said, all these things that were around me , um, you know, I've , I'm surrounded. My family's very smart. I have smarty pants, sisters, and my dad's a veterinarian. My mom started her own company and business. And there was also always a passion for learning and asking a lot of questions, not being distracted by or not feeling like I couldn't ask questions about things. And so once I realized what I had passion for was I liked math. I liked science. I wanted to learn more and more and more and more. And you know, I don't like just sitting around doing nothing. If I don't understand something, I'm going to research the heck out of it. And then I'm going to ask lots of questions to the experts around me to try to gain all the knowledge that I can.

Kimberlynn Davis:

No, that is absolutely perfect. So now that I have you here for the strategy types of questions, I'm going to ask a question on behalf of those listeners who may be struggling with needing an alternative arrangement, if you will. So due to COVID, we all read the headlines, we know what's going on. Women have been greatly impacted by the pandemic. Many of whom have decided to leave the workforce altogether, not a decision they wanted to make, but a decision that was necessary for their families or their own health, what would you say to them in terms of next steps that can be taken? We all want a blueprint. If you will. What's the Danielle way of getting the outcome that we need.

Danielle Abramson:

It's partly taking a leap of faith. You have to have passion. You have to really want something. You have to surround yourself with people who want you to have that. That's something, whatever it is that you want and it's to figure out what is necessary to get you to that next step. And a lot of times it's really also asking for help, which a lot of people have, especially women have a hard time doing, at least I know I, I did for awhile and I try not to try to get better at it. But if you want to, from one point to the other and you know, you need some help to do it, don't be afraid to ask for help. That's what a community is about. That sort of family's about. And so line up what you need to do to get to your next point and ask for help, ask for guidance, ask for support, work together to make it happen. It's sometimes it's not just sometimes you need people to help you get there, and don't be afraid to ask for that assistance. And also don't be afraid to fail, especially when you're doing something new for the first time. I don't know why I feel like whenever I do something new, like if I don't do it right, the first time I'm mad at myself, like, oh, it didn't work out the way I want it to. And I always try to take a step back and say, the unknown is you don't, you don't know what's going to happen. So it's okay to give yourself some slack and to say, you know, okay, I'm just going to try it again, pick myself back up and try it again. You don't have to be good at something the first time you try it. I always teach my kids that. And so it's just surrounding yourself with people who could support you, asking for help when you need it and take the leap of faith and have passion for what you're doing.

April Isaacson:

Can you talk about how important it is to have that self-reflection so to give yourself the room to ask for help from others, but also to know that it's okay. If you don't succeed the first time around.

Danielle Abramson:

I've been trying things my whole life. So I'm just, I'm thinking about like the first time I had my first son, I thought I knew everything. I was going to be great at, you know , going to be the best mom. I was going to know what I was doing right away. And I remember my sister had her child three years before me. And she kept saying towards the end of my pregnancy, like a little harder than you think, Danielle, you know, you may, you may have some trouble. Things may not go the way you planned. Cause you know, I was working at the time and I thought, oh , I'll just go back to work in a few weeks. And she said, you know, sometimes don't work things don't work out. You know, I know you want to nurse your child and you know, it's not as easy as you think, and you might be tired. It's hard , it's hard to get sleep. And then I had my child and everything she said was a thousand times percent true, like and more. And it was, you know, I hear , I was thinking, oh my God, I'm failing. I'm not doing a good job. I'm not doing this. Right. I'm not nursing. Right. I'm not going back to work. Like I wanted to, I'm exhausted. I'm tired. And I was also, I wasn't asking anyone for help because I was in Boston, everyone in New York and New Jersey, but I was keeping everything inside. And you know, I went to visit my family a few weeks later with my little newborn and like broke down crying. And it was just like, and they're like, why didn't you tell us? Like, we would've come. Like, why didn't you ask for help? Why do you think you have to be this superhero? Why do you think you have to know what's going on? You know, right away, this is your first time doing this. And so that really like that helped me realize that things are not always what you think they are. And that's okay. And also it helped me to judge people less. Cause I remember in graduate school and my friends had a baby and she was like, oh, I'm exhausted. And I'm, and I'm sleeping with the baby and I'm and I said , why are you doing that? Like, you shouldn't be doing that. You shouldn't because I have no experience. So these experiences have me one that it's okay to ask for help too. It's okay to not know what you're doing. And to admit you don't know what you're doing and to be okay with that , you don't know what you're doing. And three to be less judgmental when you have not been in a position in that position yourself to stop judging others, because you have no idea what they're experiencing.

Kimberlynn Davis:

Oh, Danielle. Oh, such great advice. I tell you, I cannot reinforce what you said. I just I'm speechless at this point because it's so important that we get this discussion out and that our fellow female practitioners understand, we don't have to have all the answers and everything isn't going to be perfect. I identify with you so much with that whole story of your first son, not being able to nurse and having my family sneak formula to him when I was asleep. Mind you, but we'll, we'll talk about that later. But, but it's just important for us to realize that, and we're not weak by asking someone to step in at all. In fact, it shows a level of maturity and I'm so glad you were able to share that with our listeners. But before we let you go, I know you're like, I don't have anything more to give after that. But what's your advice to those? And you've had many of these situations , who found themselves as the first, if you will, in a , in a meeting or an opportunity or the classroom or family situation embarking on a new path, what's your advice to them when they're that first or that only in conquering that challenge.

Danielle Abramson:

I always say that, again, surround yourself with people who support you. That's huge. You're not, you're not, you don't have to do this alone. You don't have to look at this, you know , leap of faith , as a, as a solo event, again, if you're passionate for what you believe in your work. You're a hard worker, then go for it. It's okay to be the first to make a change. Someone has to make changes, right? For me, it's more exciting to be the person who tried to make the change than to be the one who is following in their footsteps. Don't be afraid to ask for help and don't be afraid to ask.

Kimberlynn Davis:

Love it. Thank you so much.

April Isaacson:

Thank you, Danielle.

Danielle Abramson:

Thank you.

April Isaacson:

Thank you for joining us today. If you enjoyed sidebars, we invite you to check out the Kilpatrick Townsend medicine and molecules blog on kilpatricktownsend.com to read, watch, and listen to other related insight on patent law. We'll also put that information in the show notes. The opinions expressed on this podcast are own and are not those of Kilpatrick Townsend.

Kimberlynn Davis:

Also, we would love it if you would rate us or leave a review, it helps others find the show. See you next time.