Aly Fuller, JD, PhD (she/her)
Vice President, Government Affairs & Intellectual Property – Prolacta Bioscience
PreemieWorld: When did you start working at Prolacta?
I began consulting with Prolacta way back in 2009 when I was still in law school and a Patent Agent at the law firm, Cooley. I stayed working as Prolacta’s outside patent counsel at Cooley
until 2017 at which time I joined the company full time as Vice President of Intellectual Property. I took over responsibility for the Government Affairs and Advocacy functions in 2020. In 2018, I also created and still lead Prolacta’s Women’s Leadership Development Academy (WLDA)
focused on mentorship and building the female leaders of tomorrow.
PreemieWorld: Tell us about your educational/corporate background:
I began my journey as a scientist. After graduating from Gannon University with a degree in Biology, I went immediately to Northwestern University where I studied an animal model of multiple sclerosis with the aim of understanding the molecular differences in the immune response that underlay the reason why women get MS at a much higher rate than men. After completing my doctorate instead of continuing in the world of bench science, I joined a law firm in Washington, DC as a Technical Specialist in their patent group. In this role I got to work with
scientists and be on the cutting edge of many new scientific discoveries without having to actually “do science” which really appealed to me. I enrolled in the evening program at the Catholic University’s Columbus School of Law at Washington, DC with the aim of becoming at patent lawyer, which I eventually did in 2012.
Through all four years of law school and until I joined Prolacta in 2017, I worked as a Patent Agent then lawyer at the law firm, Cooley, where I got to work with a diverse array of life science clients, including Prolacta, helping them protect intellectual property. Through that time, I also maintained an active pro bono practice lending aid to LGBTQ+ asylum seekers from countries where it is illegal or otherwise unsafe to live openly.
PreemieWorld: What attracted you to Prolacta Bioscience?
I started working with Prolacta as outside patent counsel in early 2009 and was immediately drawn to the mission of the company. At that time Prolacta was extremely small and struggling to survive and the legal team at Cooley was equally invested in doing our part to help. The assistance through the lean years paid off as it afforded us a front row seat to Prolacta’s success once the exclusive human milk diet started to take hold. There is no better feeling than
being a part, even a tiny part, in saving a baby’s life.
What is more, I also got to work hand in hand with the company’s executive team through that time and I knew that Prolacta had a corporate culture where I would both fit in and be valued.
PreemieWorld: What types of work do you get to do day-to-day that gives you great gratification?
I think the best part of my job is that no two days are ever the same. My work varies from working with scientists to understand the intricacies of the inventions they are developing to working in state houses and in our nation’s capital for more access to safer donor milk. I often describe my role as being the person that deals with the issues that arise at the collision of law and science. If there is a part of science that has a legal component or a part of the law that
has a scientific component, that is where you will find me.
PreemieWorld: In heading up Government Affairs, what would you like for professionals in the space to know about Prolacta and its work? What would you like for parents of premature babies and organizations that support them to know about Prolacta and its work?
That we are working for YOU! The role of advocacy and subsequently government affairs is to spotlight, support, and lobby for what is best for babies and their families. At Prolacta, we have a very important saying, “What is best for babies is best for Prolacta.” As such, we rely heavily on the voices of parents and health care professionals to let us know what issues they are facing so we can support them to do what is best for babies.
And Prolacta couldn’t do what we do for babies without the incredible donor moms who spend anywhere from 2 to 8 hours every day sanitizing, pumping, properly storing, etc. their excess breast milk. So, this year we’re working to help the public better understand who these donor moms are, what they do to help ensure a safe milk supply, and why they deserve the option to be compensated for their efforts.
PreemieWorld: With drug development in neonates being a huge challenge in the NICU space, how does it make you feel that Prolacta’s nutritional products continue to be the driving force in how babies are able to not only survive but thrive and go home?
I know it sounds cliché to say, but so much has changed while so much has stayed the same.
- When Prolacta was first introduced the percent of 22-week-old infants that survived was only
3%, now that number is over 20%
- Survival rates for extremely preterm babies improving in U.S. | Reuters
Premature babies’ survival rate is climbing, study says – Scope (stanford.edu)
That is a lot of progress! There are a great number of groundbreaking innovations that contribute to this staggering increase in survival, but the role human milk has played cannot be ignored. And now we know that survival is just the tip of the iceberg for these kiddos and that an exclusive human milk diet improves both short- and long-term outcomes as well, including neurodevelopmental outcomes. Improving Short- and Long-term Outcomes With an Exclusive Human Milk Diet: What’s New? – ICHMSI (humanmilkscience.org)
Instead of thinking in terms of babies that get to leave the NICU with their parents, we now get to think about those babies graduating from high school, and in some cases becoming advocates for preemies themselves. How does it make me feel? When you ask my 11- and 9-year-old sons what their mommy does, they will both proudly tell you, “My mommy saves babies.” I cannot imagine lending my energy to anything else.
PreemieWorld: Prolacta is recognized for high safety standards. Can you tell us more about that?
Prolacta has always maintained the highest quality and safety standards in the industry. We have developed, validated, and implemented more than 20 tests for screening donor milk to ensure the highest level of quality and safety.
Because of the significant time, effort, and resources required to donate, Prolacta gives donors the option to be compensated or redirect the compensation to charity, recognizing their commitment to helping the vulnerable infants we serve. Our stringent safety standards and compensation program provide a safe way for donors to help infants in need.