A Place Where Science and Business Meet: My Internship Experience at AstraZeneca Canada

Bonnie Hassanzadeh is an IP Intensive student and a 3L JD candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School. As part of the course requirements, students were asked to write a reflective blog on their internship experience.

As part of the Osgoode Intellectual Property Law & Technology Intensive Program, I had the wonderful opportunity of completing a 10-week internship at AstraZeneca Canada (“AstraZeneca”). I can confidently say my internship experience, under the supervision of Denise Lacombe, Head of Legal at AstraZeneca, has been the highlight of my law school career. I also had the pleasure of working with Cristina Aguirre, Privacy Officer at AstraZeneca, and learned about the day-to-day operations of a major pharmaceutical company from her perspective.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of my internship was attending townhalls and meetings with different teams at the company. In addition to learning more about the company from legal, business, marketing, and human resources perspectives, I had the opportunity to witness the passion that each team member brought to their work and the company’s mission. As an innovative pharmaceutical company, AstraZeneca is truly on the cutting edge of science and the team’s innovative spirit was evident in every meeting.

At the beginning of my internship, I expressed that my main goal was to gain a realistic perspective on the responsibilities of an in-house counsel working in the pharmaceutical industry. I was pleased to gain exposure to a variety of topics including patent litigation, pharmaceutical regulations, and privacy law over the course of my internship.

As a multinational pharmaceutical company, AstraZeneca is often involved in complex patent litigation. During my internship, I was given the opportunity to review and provide input on court submissions for ongoing patent disputes. I was excited to participate in meetings with Denise and a group of experienced patent litigators and try to absorb as much knowledge about the field as I could. As a student with deep interest in patent law, I felt fortunate to be able to gain insight about high-stakes patent disputes outside of the traditional classroom environment and apply my theoretical knowledge of the topic to real-world problems.

As the pharmaceutical industry is heavily regulated in Canada, a significant portion of the work I did during my placement pertained to compliance with industry regulations. Reviewing advertising materials and ensuring compliance with the Pharmaceutical Advertising Advisory Board Code was a great exercise in legal research and sound judgement for me. Additionally, I was tasked with reviewing the Patented Medicines Prices Review Board Guidelines and answering questions pertaining to pricing issues for existing patented drugs as well as medicines with “patent pending” status in Canada. I found assignments pertaining to the regulatory regime around the pharmaceutical industry to be helpful in sharpening my analytical skills as well as improving my attention to details. Aside from learning about the existing regulations, one of the aspects that I enjoyed about the assignments was Denise’s willingness to provide her practical perspective on the issues that the company faced and help me navigate the regulatory framework through the lens of a business-savvy in-house counsel.

I began my internship at a very exciting time for privacy law in Canada. On September 22, 2021, Quebec’s Bill 64, received Royal Assent. Bill 64 is projected to transform Quebec’s private-sector privacy law regime as it comes into effect over the next three years. As one of my assignments, I conducted extensive research into the topic and prepared a memorandum providing commentary on the effects of the legislation on a company that relies on patient data for medical research. Given my interest in privacy law and my involvement in several projects pertaining to the field in law school, I was naturally excited to delve deep into the topic. The opportunity to expand my knowledge of the evolving privacy law regime in Canada was one of the most rewarding aspects of my internship.

My placement not only provided me with insight about the complex legal landscape of the industry, but it also made me appreciate the business aspect of the operations of a multinational pharmaceutical company. I am deeply grateful to Professors Vaver and D’Agostino as well as Denise Lacombe and Cristina Aguirre for providing this unique learning opportunity to Osgoode students. I am positive the skills I cultivated over the course of my internship will aid me in my future legal career.

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