Life Sciences Commercial Dispute Resolution

Our Practice

Simmons & Simmons is recognised as a pre-eminent law firm for Life Sciences. Our international team advises many of the world’s leading pharma, biotech, medical device and healthcare companies, including:

  • most of the largest global pharmaceutical companies
  • some of the fastest growing biotechs
  • leading medical device manufacturers
  • household names in consumer healthcare.

The Life Sciences group comprises over 100 lawyers (many with bioscience and pharma law qualifications), dedicated sector analysts and external industry consultants, and excels in providing seamless cross-border teamwork in multi-jurisdictional disputes.


Our commercial disputes team has considerable experience of handling contentious issues in the Life Sciences sector, including:

  • contractual disputes arising from licensing, co-promotion, manufacturing, distribution and supply agreements
  • jurisdiction disputes arising from cross-border agreements
  • termination of joint venture agreements
  • clinical trial agreements
  • product liability claims
  • administrative, contentious regulatory and public law matters
  • crime, fraud and investigatory work.

Our recent experience includes advising on the following (for reasons of client confidentiality, on occasion, we are unable to disclose the names of our clients):

Corporate / shareholder disputes

3M UK Holdings Limited
  • Advising 3M UK in its defence of a multi-million dollar Commercial Court claim brought by Porton Capital Technology Funds and others (and their subsequent appeal to the Court of Appeal) in relation to allegations of breach of contract arising out of the cessation of the commercialisation of a product developed for the clinical detection of MRSA.
Director of pharma consultancy
  • Advising the director of a UK-based pharmaceutical company, in his defence in the High Court and on appeal to the Court of Appeal, against claims of fraudulent and negligent misrepresentation and misstatement, in relation to an investment made in the company during its attempted commercialisation in the EU of a protein reverse-engineered from HIV and used for multiple therapeutic applications including treatment of ulcerative diseases of the gut.
Medical device manufacturer
  • Advising a multinational medical device manufacturer in a dispute with its former parent over the terms of the de-merger, and in particular on the scope of non-compete and other restrictions in relation to the commercialisation of certain medical devices in specific territories.
Dutch biomedical company
  • Acting for the management of a Dutch biomedical company in enquiry proceedings before the specialised Enterprise Division of the Amsterdam Court of Appeal concerning issues of alleged corporate mismanagement in a hostile take-over context.

Licensing, distribution, supplier and other contractual disputes

Major international pharmaceutical company
  • Advising on out-of-court dispute and successful settlement negotiations in France in relation to the allegedly wrongful termination of a co-branding agreement that was grounded on the poor performance of the co-branded and co-marketed drug. The claim at stake was approximately €45m.
Medical device manufacturer
  • Advising the European arm of a global medical device manufacturer and distributor on a dispute arising out of a supply and distribution agreement for a palliative embolic treatment for malignant tumours.
Medical device manufacturer
  • Advising a prominent European bone tissue engineering medical device manufacturer on a potential dispute arising out of a distribution agreement. 
International pharmaceutical company
  • Advising on German law issues in anticipation of a WIPO arbitration in a DKK 60m dispute.
University technology-transfer consultancy
  • Advising a pre-eminent university technology-transfer and academic consultancy on commercial litigation aspects of various Life Science patent licence disputes.
Dainippon Sumitomo Pharma
  • Acting for Dainippon Sumitomo Pharma and Sumitomo Chemical on claims arising from the purported termination of DSP’s long-term licence for the marketing and sale of the calcium channel blocker Amlodin in Japan.
Various pharmaceutical companies
  • Representing various pharmaceutical companies in Belgian litigation concerning issues of exclusive concession of sale, following the termination of distribution agreements.
Medical device manufacturer
  • Acting for a leading medical device manufacturer in relation to claims against a supplier arising from the supply of specification non-compliant ethanol that was to be used as an ingredient in pharmaceutical inhalers which were being manufactured for sale to distributors in the UK and abroad, and which were ultimately for retail sale.

Procurement disputes

  • Acting for GSK in the first arbitration against the Department of Health under the Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme (PPRS), the scheme that governs the prices charged by manufacturers for medicines sold the NHS, and on appeal to the High Court. The dispute related to the binding nature of the PPRS and the proper treatment of 'brand-equalisation' deals in relation to price reduction obligations under the scheme.
Medical device manufacturer
  • Advising an international medical device manufacturer in a dispute with several NHS Trusts concerning a series of 20-year fixed-term contracts which had turned out to be loss-making.

Product liability

Medical device companies
  • Representing medical device companies before the Belgian courts in litigation (including expert procedures) in relation to alleged defects in their products.
French pharmaceutical companies
  • Advising numerous French pharmaceutical companies in relation to major product liability litigation, including one of the largest-scale product liability cases in French legal history, which involved thousands of indemnity claims and over 3,000 claims announced before the criminal courts.
Dutch product liability claims
  • Advising on numerous product liability cases before the Dutch Courts including with regard to product liability issues around the marketing authorisation suspension of a blockbuster contraceptive product; a US medical devices manufacturer with regard to mass product liability claims concerning metal-on-metal hip implants; and a Dutch pharmaceutical company with regard to multi-party mass product liability litigation concerning a contraceptive product.

Crime, fraud and instigations

Major pharmaceutical company
  • Defending and assisting a major pharmaceutical company in France in relation to a criminal investigation launched on various grounds including manslaughter, involuntary bodily harm, administration of toxic substances and misleading advertising.
Various pharmaceutical companies
  • Advising the management of several French subsidiaries of pharmaceutical companies with regard to executive liabilities within the scope of criminal investigations.
Medical software designer
  • Advising a medical software designer within the scope of a bribery investigation in Italy.
Major pharmaceutical company
  • Advising a major pharmaceutical company in relation to a wide variety of disputes in the Middle East region.

Other disputes

International pharma company
  • Acting for one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies in ad hoc arbitration proceedings against its insurers following a very significant damages claim in US patent litigation.
  • Acting for Mylan in patent revocation proceedings concerning a disease-modifying treatment for multiple sclerosis, in relation to various “pure” litigation issues arising out of the wider proceedings, including by way of a split trial on issues of construction of contract in relation to a patent assignment.
  • Acting for GlaxoSmithKline in relation to injunctive proceedings taken to minimise the disruption to the company, employees and contractors caused by animal rights activists.
Pharmaceutical company
  • Advising and representing in German preliminary injunction proceedings in relation to false and misleading advertising and promotion by a competitor.
International pharma company
  • Acting for a leading European pharma company in its defence against claims in excess of $80 million for alleged wrongful termination relating to its termination of a clinical trial of an anti-thrombin drug produced from genetically-modified goats.

Specialist Expertise

The breadth of the sector, and types of disputes that arise in relation to it, require a range of skills. We offer experience and expertise in resolution of disputes by negotiation, ADR, litigation and arbitration. Parts of the sector are highly regulated, and we can advise clients on a plethora of issues, including regulatory compliance, civil litigation and arbitration (including in relation to injunctive and other interim relief), judicial review and risk management.

On occasion, we are retained to advise before a dispute arises on contract construction and informal resolution strategies. Frequently, long-term relationships are involved and the sensitive resolution of specific disputes is crucial in maintaining those relationships. In other instances, more robust action to protect a client’s interests is appropriate.

Ultimately, our client’s objectives remain paramount, and we employ a range of innovative and creative approaches in order to achieve those objectives.