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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.

In a move that is sure to be welcomed by the diagnostics industry, on 23 January 2024, the European Commission announced proposals (Commission proposal and press release) to extend the transitional periods for certain in-vitro-diagnostic medical devices (“IVDs”) under Regulation (EU) 2017/746 (“IVDR”).  This follows similar action taken by the Commission in early 2023 to extend the transitional provisions under Regulation (EU) 2017/745 (the “MDR”) (see our prior blog post here).  The rationale applied for the latest proposal is the same as before – it aims to “ensure availability of safe devices, essential for healthcare systems, and protect patient care”.  Specifically, the latest IVD proposals are intended to address ongoing concerns regarding the availability and readiness of notified bodies to perform IVDR conformity assessments and the high number of IVDs that have yet to transition to the IVDR.  The new proposals (once adopted) will provide manufacturers with more time to comply with the new requirements of the IVDR.  Relatedly, manufacturers will be required to give notice if they foresee interruption of supply of their devices.

In addition, to improve the transparency and coordination, the Commission has proposed to accelerate the roll out of the European database on medical devices (“EUDAMED”) so that certain modules are mandatory as from late 2025.   Continue Reading European Commission Proposes to Extend Transitional Periods for In-Vitro-Diagnostic Medical Devices

The European Parliament and Council are currently negotiating the wording of a new Regulation establishing a Single Market emergency instrument (“SMEI”).  This new measure builds on the experience gained from the COVID-19 crisis and gives new powers to the Commission, in close cooperation with the Member States.  This blog briefly discusses the expected impact on

On October 19, 2023, the World Health Organization (“WHO”) published a set of regulatory considerations on artificial intelligence (“AI”) for health (press release and full publication).  The publication is not guidance or policy but is intended as a resource for relevant stakeholders in medical devices ecosystems, including manufacturers who design and develop AI-embedded

On 19 September 2023, the UK  Government announced the launch of the Innovative Devices Access Pathway (“IDAP”) pilot scheme. The UK already has in place an Innovative Licensing and Access Pathway (“ILAP”) for medicines.  IDAP is the equivalent for medical devices, and is groundbreaking in the UK devices space. 

The IDAP scheme aims to improve

Big news for manufacturers: the UK Government announced on 1 August 2023 that it will indefinitely recognize the EU’s product conformity assessment mark (the “Conformité Européenne” or “CE” mark), with respect to a range of manufactured goods placed on the UK market. 

The move is a significant reversal of the UK’s previous, post‑Brexit policy.  In a bid to separate the UK’s internal market from the European market, the UK promised to phase out CE marks for products marketed in England, Scotland and Wales (Great Britain or “GB”), and replace them with an equivalent “UKCA” mark.  However, the project suffered from numerous delays, and the UK repeatedly extended the deadline for transitioning from the CE mark to the UKCA mark, before the recent announcement that the UK will accept CE marks indefinitely.  Despite this change of policy, the UK has not abandoned the UKCA mark yet, and manufacturers may still choose to use it.  Even so, it is not obvious why a manufacturer would choose conformity assessment that is recognized only in the UK over (or even as well as) conformity assessment that is recognized across the UK and the EU.  What remains to be seen is whether differences between the UK and EU conformity assessment standards will lead to a kind of “forum shopping” by manufacturers. 

Also, and of significant importance for medical device manufacturers, the indefinite extension of CE mark recognition does not (at least currently) cover medical devices nor in vitro diagnostic medical devices (“IVDs”).  The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (“MHRA”) is separately consulting on international recognition of foreign approvals (including CE marks) in the medical device space.Continue Reading UK Government to Recognize CE Marks Indefinitely (other than for Medical Devices and IVDs)

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

Borderline issues arise when the regulatory classification of a product, for example, as a medicine, a medical device or a food supplement, is unclear.  Uncertainty about the regulatory status of a product under development, and consequently uncertainty as to what legal rules need to be followed, can have immense consequences for developers and innovators.  To

Following the COVID-19 pandemic and the relatively slow approval of vaccines in the EU versus other key jurisdictions, as part of the EU’s General Pharmaceutical Legislation amendment proposal, published on 26 April 2023, the European Commission has proposed to introduce temporary emergency marketing authorizations (“TEMAs”) for use when there is a “public health emergency.” 

In this episode of Covington’s Life Sciences Audiocast, Sarah Cowlishaw and Ellie Handy discuss the recent changes to the MDR and IVDR.  Our speakers discuss the European Commission’s recently adopted Regulation (EU) 2023/607, which extends the transitional periods in the EU Medical Devices Regulation (EU) 2017/745 (the “MDR”) for certain eligible devices CE marked

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