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When it comes to D.C.-area transactions lawyers who specialize in life sciences, there is John Hurvitz, and then there is everyone else. “There’s no doubt in my mind he’s the best in Washington,” says Brent Hatzis-Schoch, vice president of GPC Biotech, a German company with research sites in Massachusetts and New Jersey. “For his kind of work, he’s one of the top 10 in the world.” Strong praise, indeed, and finding clients to rave about Hurvitz, a partner at Covington & Burling, is not difficult. They tout his mastery of the art of the deal and his skill at negotiating and drafting complex multicorporation agreements. But what also separates Hurvitz, 41, is his training in intellectual property, which means he stays in the room whether the issue on the table is collaborative research, licensing, marketing, strategic planning, or dispute resolution under existing deals. His client list is long and impressive: AstraZeneca, Boehringer Ingelheim, GPC Biotech, Human Genome Sciences, Medarex, and Schering-Plough, among others. Last year, Hurvitz helped Medarex reach an agreement with Bristol-Myers Squibb in one of the largest biopharmaceutical product deals in years. Pending approval from the Food and Drug Administration, the two companies will jointly distribute a drug designed to treat malignant melanoma. Medarex could receive $205 million if regulatory milestones are met and another $275 million if sales milestones are met. “The deal required a lot of imagination,” says Bradford Middlekauff, senior vice president of Medarex. “It’s a few hundred pages long and has almost 200 defined terms. We needed to think through a number of different scenarios, and every time you edit a scenario, it adds a level of complexity. John is great at this kind of deal.” Hurvitz got into the game early. Not long after joining Covington in 1992, he saw the opportunity to shift his practice from food and drug law squarely into life sciences. The move was a natural fit, he says, given his science background — an undergraduate degree from Haverford College in biology and philosophy — and his desire to tackle a complex industry. In crafting a life sciences deal, Hurvitz explains, “you sit down with a blank piece of paper and figure out how it’s going to work. Unlike an M&A deal, where there’s a zero-sum game, these alliances are relationships. It sounds trite, but it’s a marriage of companies, and if one party extracts too much in negotiations, there’s going to be problems down the road.” As co-chair of Covington’s life sciences practice, he is aided by “an exceptional group of lawyers,” Hurvitz says. Key partners include Ethan Posner, Christopher Sipes, and Emily Leonard. The World Bank has also taken notice of Hurvitz’s talent. Partly pro bono and partly on retainer, Hurvitz helped draft the World Bank’s proposed Advance Market Commitment program. Now being considered by the G7 nations, the program would provide market-based incentives for companies to develop treatments for HIV/AIDS and vaccines for malaria and tuberculosis — diseases that strike especially hard in Africa. “It is rewarding to be involved in something that can have a very tangible and immediate result,” says Hurvitz. “It’s because things are so bad that you can make such a difference.”

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