Meet the team: Christopher Casley, Partner and Patent Attorney in the Life Sciences team, Bristol

As part of our 'meet the team' series, we talk to Christopher Casley about why he enjoys life as a patent attorney, the challenges involved and how the increased use of technology in healthcare is opening up the sector to a wider range of innovators.

After studying for a PhD in the neurochemistry of Alzheimer’s disease at University College London, Chris went on to undertake post-doctoral research at a multinational pharmaceutical company. It was during this time realised it was “time to leave the lab”.

“I still wanted to stay connected to science,” he explains. “Perhaps if I hadn’t become a patent attorney I might have gone into clinical pharmacology, or perhaps satisfied my inner geek by going into something involving neuroscience or computer game design, but when the patent attorneys at the company where I was a researcher told me more about what they did, I could see it was the right career for me.”

Chris was advised that the best place to train would be in private practice so in 2004 he applied for a role at Mewburn Ellis, qualified as a Chartered Patent Attorney and has been there ever since.

For Chris, the most enjoyable part of his job is meeting the client research team and learning about their new invention for the first time. “The team will generally be very enthusiastic about what they have created. It rubs off and I always come out of those meetings buzzing. Talking around the invention, understanding its scope, its limits and where it can go next is a great part of the job. You go away determined to draft a patent that really does the invention justice.” 

One of the most challenging aspects of patent work can be contentious opposition hearings, says Chris. “There is so much at stake, and they require intense preparation. It’s like 3-D chess – you have to think through all the possible scenarios, arguments and counter arguments, planning how you will react. You find yourself waking up at three in the morning thinking of another possible line of argument that might come at you”.

“Whilst it's a stressful process, and more often not, many of the permutations you have worked through don’t even come up, it’s a great feeling when it’s all over and you know you have done a good job for your client.”


As a patent attorney for over 18 years, Chris has been on a journey with many of his clients from start-up all the way through to IPO. In that time, the life sciences landscape has changed considerably. “I have been involved with a lot of cancer research, diagnostics and therapeutics over the years,” he says. “The combining of wet lab and dry lab research is changing everything and we are seeing the tech / bio interface really taking off.”

As well as providing significant healthcare benefits such improved diagnostics and more targeted treatments, the increasing use of bioinformatics is leading to a real democratisation of the sector, he explains. “The ability of inventors I have worked with to come up with new inventions, from their desktop rather than the benchtop, is making a huge difference and opening up new opportunities for innovation”.

“Take genome sequencing – the cost has dropped considerably over the last ten years. If this continues, there is the possibility that in the future we will see whole genome sequencing as an entirely routine part of healthcare. This will in turn open huge possibilities for advances in precision medicine and diagnostics, albeit with challenges around data access and privacy.”
The ability to work from your desktop rather than a lab means there is no limit to where innovators are based – they no longer need the infrastructure of a big organisation. This lowers the bar to entry and makes the sector more inclusive and dynamic.

“You saw this happening during Covid,” Chris explains. “At the beginning of the pandemic, for those not working on vaccines or other Covid related research, labs were closed and the only tool available was a computer at home. Nevertheless, a great deal of science carried on, especially using artificial intelligence technologies. This is having a real impact in the field of cancer detection and therapeutics.”

Less resource, lower costs

Chris advises a lot of research charities and universities and has seen how they are now able to come up with vaccine candidates using computer models as part of the process. “It means that they can get far closer to the product that will be eventually used and the patents we draw up can reflect that. Development is far more efficient and as long as you have people with the specialist skills and knowledge required, far fewer resources are needed than in the past which means the process is less costly.”

The idea that progress only happens in long-established academic institutions or big pharma is becoming a thing of the past. “I think we will see more and more innovations coming from smaller companies,” says Chris. “This more sophisticated, computer-driven approach to drug development means the next big thing could come from anywhere. Changes in the tools and resources needed to for research and development have the potential to rapidly improve our ability to treat disease”.

“I see life sciences becoming more like the tech sector in the future, with smaller start-ups increasingly driving innovation and the development of new inventions.”

Time out

When Chris isn’t working, Cornwall is one of his favourite places to be. “I enjoy messing about in the Cornish surf with my daughters when I can,” he says. “Long beach walks with our little rascal terrier make for a great day out - preferably stopping at a nice pub along the way.” Chris is a regular at his local CrossFit box and his daughters have also inherited his love of active pursuits, “at home in Bristol, my kids who are 10 and 12 regularly compete in netball and hockey matches, so weekends are often spent cheering them on from the side lines.”