The end of 2023 featured two significant judgments concerning AI inventions: (i) a highly awaited decision from the Supreme Court in Thaler on the ability of AI systems to be named inventors of patents; and (ii) a decision from the High Court in Emotional Perception considering the application of the computer program exclusion in the UK, leading to prompt changes in patent examination practices by the UKIPO. The Thaler decision was unsurprising and consistent with decisions in other jurisdictions. Consequently, this article focuses on the second of these judgments, especially as Emotional Perception could have ramifications for life sciences companies utilising artificial neural networks (ANN); inventions using ANNs will no longer be excluded from patentability on the basis that it engages the computer program exclusion to patentability in the UK.

Continue Reading Landmark UK High Court decision makes it easier to patent AI-related inventions that utilise ANNs

Thank you to all who joined us for our December 13 panel titled the “Race to Regulate.” In case you missed it, unpack this year’s pivotal legal challenges impacting the 2023 — and 2024 — digital legal landscape in our Year in Review Pocket Book.

Continue Reading Virtual and Digital Health Digest, December 2023

On 12 December 2023, the European Commission, the European Medicines Agency (EMA), and the Heads of Medicines Agencies (HMA) published the first version of the Union list of critical medicines (the list). Along with the list, the EMA published a Questions & Answers document (Q&A).

Continue Reading European Commission, HMA and EMA Publish First Union List of Critical Medicines

Spurred, in part, by the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for new ways to reach patients at home, 2023 saw a boom in digital technologies and healthcare solutions: one-stop-shop telemedicine platforms, app-based remote patient monitoring, direct-to-consumer online pharmacies, software-based medical devices, and artificial intelligence/machine learning to bolster delivery of telehealth services. Then came a robust government response. In the EU and UK, regulatory bodies grappled with the introduction of machine learning, AI, and other software into healthcare services by, for example, new guidance from the EU Medical Device Coordination Group and UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency on software medical devices, the EU’s AI Act and the UK government’s AI White paper, the European Medicines Agency reflection paper on use of AI in the product lifecycle, the EU Data Privacy Framework and the equivalent UK-U.S. data bridge, and the European Health Data Space

We call this the “Race to Regulate.” This push-pull dynamic between digital health innovation and government regulation is key to evaluating regulatory risks in today’s shifting legal landscape. This digest seeks to keep up with these changes and provide you with an overview of the key guidelines and developments as the landscape develops. As we come to the end of 2023 and publish our latest Digest, join us on December 13 as we unpack pivotal moments in the 2023 Race to Regulate and discuss what’s next for virtual and digital health. 

Continue Reading Virtual and Digital Health Digest and webinar

On 24 October 2023, the European Commission published a Communication on “Addressing medicine shortages in the EU” (the Communication). The Communication responds to the European Council’s call in June for urgent measures to ensure production and availability of critical medicines (i.e., the unavailability of which may cause patients serious harm, and whose supply must be ensured even in crisis periods) and to diversify international supply chains. On the same date, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) published details on the Solidarity Mechanism, recently created by the EMA Medicines Shortages Steering Group (MSSG) to facilitate redistribution of medicines between Member States (MS) in cases of critical shortages (i.e., medicine shortages where no alternative is available).

These EU-level actions are in addition to the mechanisms to tackle shortages already included in the European Commission’s proposal for a reform of the EU Pharmaceutical Legislation (read our advisory).

Continue Reading New EU-level actions addressing shortages

In a previous blog post, we discussed the UK government’s proposed changes to the regulatory framework governing clinical trials. Marking the start of this legislative change is a new notification scheme for the lowest-risk clinical trials (the scheme), published on 12 October 2023. The scheme is based on the proposal set out in the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency’s (MHRA) consultation earlier this year, which was supported by 74% of respondents.

The scheme allows for the processing of eligible clinical trials by the MHRA in less than 14 days, instead of the statutory 30 days. The scheme currently only applies to clinical trial authorisation (CTA) applications for Phase 4 and certain Phase 3 clinical trials deemed as low risk, and provided they meet the MHRA’s eligibility criteria, set out below. Initial “first in human” Phase 1 or Phase 2 trials and clinical trial amendment applications will not be eligible.

The scheme aims to reduce the time taken to get lowest-risk clinical trials up and running, to give UK patients quicker access to potentially life-saving medicines, without undermining patient safety. The MHRA encourages clinical trial sponsors to use the scheme for all eligible trials and estimates that this will include 20% of UK initial clinical trial applications.

Continue Reading UK clinical trials – new notification scheme for lowest-risk clinical trials

In September 2023, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) relaunched its Policy 0070 on publication of clinical data for medicinal products for human use (the Policy). The Policy, as discussed in previous posts, is one of the Agency’s flagship public health initiatives focused on promoting the transparency of both EMA decision-making and clinical data, sharing of knowledge and use in future research.

While the Policy was adopted by the EMA back in 2014, it has been suspended since 2018 due to the EMA’s relocation to Amsterdam and COVID-19. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the EMA adopted exceptional transparency measures for centrally approved COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. This was deemed a success further showing the need for clinical data sharing and, thus, the need  for relaunching the Policy.

Continue Reading EMA relaunches Policy 0070 on publication of clinical data for medicinal products for human use

We set out in a previous post that the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) intends to introduce a new international recognition procedure (IRP) for medicinal products, whereby decisions taken in certain countries could be recognised by the MHRA to fast-track approval in the UK.

On 30 August 2023, the MHRA published detailed guidance on how it will use the IRP for medicinal products. The IRP will be open to applicants who have already received an authorisation for the same product from one of the MHRA’s specified Reference Regulators (RRs) in Australia, Canada, the European Union, Japan, Switzerland, Singapore and the United States. However, the MHRA retains the right to reject the IRP and conduct a full assessment if considered necessary.

This procedure will operate in parallel to the MHRA’s current national procedures, including the shortened 150-day timetable, offering applicants a range of authorisation routes depending on the status in other countries and type of application. The hope is that this will allow the MHRA to be able to use the decisions in other countries, while still being able to conduct its own assessment where necessary for the UK market.

The IRP will be available from 1 January 2024. However, until the Windsor framework is in place on 1 January 2025, discussed here, products falling within the scope of the EU Centralised Procedure can only be authorised in Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales).

Continue Reading New UK International Recognition Framework for Medicines

On 19 September 2023, the UK Government launched the pilot phase of the Innovative Devices Access Pathway (IDAP), an initiative to help bring innovative technologies to the NHS where there is an unmet medical need. As discussed in a previous post, IDAP has been designed to accelerate the development of innovative medical devices, with the aim of taking delays and uncertainty out of the route to market. IDAP will provide an integrated support service for medical device developers that will include enhanced opportunities for engagement with the regulatory authorities and a streamlined adoption process.

Companies of all sizes are being invited to apply, both internationally and in the UK, where they intend to launch a device for the UK market. 8 products will be selected during the pilot phase, which is designed to test the main elements of the pathway to inform how best to build the future IDAP.

Applications for the pilot phase are open and will close after 29 October 2023; they can be made via an online application form and associated guidance.

Continue Reading UK Government launches Innovative Devices Access Pathway (IDAP)