John Therien is an integral part of the leadership of Smith Anderson's Chambers Global-rated AgTech industry group and advises a broad range of clients in commercial transactions involving intellectual property, including domestic and international corporate partnering, patent and technology licensing, research and development collaborations, joint ventures, mergers and acquisitions, supply chain, distribution, and co-promotion arrangements, and other strategic commercial transactions. In Chambers USA clients describe John as "extremely smart, responsive and hard-working." He has extensive experience advising companies in the agricultural biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries and also frequently counsels clients in the diagnostics, medical device, software, video game, and technology sectors on transactional matters. Prior to joining Smith Anderson, John practiced at a prominent global law firm in Boston.

Areas of Focus



  • Chambers USA: America’s Leading Business Lawyers, Intellectual Property (2016-2023)
  • LMG Life Sciences, Life Science Star (2021-2023)
  • The Best Lawyers in America®
    • Biotechnology and Life Sciences Practice (2019-2024)
    • Copyright Law (2023-2024)
    • Trademark Law (2024)
  • North Carolina Super Lawyers Rising Star (2010-2016)
  • Triangle Business Journal's 2016 "40 Under 40" Leadership Award
  • Berkeley Technology Law Journal, Associate Editor
  • Certificate in Law and Technology, UC Berkeley School of Law
  • Thelen, Marrin Prize for Law Journal Writing
  • Order of the Coif, UC Berkeley School of Law
  • Phi Beta Kappa, Harvard College


  • Clerked for Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, 2001-2002


  • UC Berkeley School of Law, J.D., 2001
    • Order of the Coif
  • Harvard College, A.B. in biochemical sciences, magna cum laude, 1998

Bar & Court Admissions


  • Licensing Executives Society
  • North Carolina Bar Association
  • Wake County Bar Association
  • American Bar Association
  • Member, Research Committee, Chordoma Foundation


  • Represented a leading genome editing company in its approximately $2.7 billion research collaboration, including an upfront payment of $135 million, with a global, publicly-traded pharmaceutical company to develop and commercialize gene editing-based gene therapies for up to six targets, a deal that won a 2021 "Impact Deal of the Year" award from LMG Life Sciences.
  • Represented a leading genome editing company dedicated to improving life in its $145.4 million initial public offering of 9,085,000 shares of common stock at a public offering price of $16.00 per share.

  • Lead counsel to a venture capital-funded genome editing company in a worldwide partnership, worth up to $1.6 billion, including an upfront payment of $105 million, with a global, publicly-traded pharmaceutical company to develop and commercialize allogeneic chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapies for multiple cancers. The transaction was awarded the 2016 Life Science sector Deals of Distinction™ award by the Licensing Executives Society and was awarded the 2016 Collaboration Impact Deal of the Year: High Range by LMG Life Sciences.
  • Advised a biotechnology company that develops CRISPR-engineered precision antibacterial products in an exclusive collaboration and license agreement valued at up to $818 million with a leading global pharmaceutical company to develop, manufacture and commercialize CRISPR-Cas3-enhanced bacteriophage products targeting bacterial pathogens for potential treatment of certain infections.

  • Advised a venture capital-funded genome editing company in its up to $445 million comprehensive worldwide development and commercialization agreement with a leading global biopharmaceutical company to develop therapies targeting the in vivo elimination of hepatitis B virus (HBV) using a proprietary genome editing platform.

  • Lead counsel to a venture capital-funded AgTech company in a license agreement of next-generation genome editing technology from a university to advance innovation in agriculture, and a related $100 million strategic alliance with a global, publicly-traded agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology company, to progress agriculture research by leveraging gene editing technology.

  • Represented a venture capital-funded biotechnology company that uses the plant-associated microbiome to create innovative agricultural products in an R&D collaboration with a leading global agricultural biotechnology company for discovery, development and commercialization of crop trait products.
  • Advised a biotechnology company focused on discovery of complex traits for improving intrinsic yield in plants in multiple research collaborations and commercial partnerships with agricultural biotechnology companies in the U.S., France and Brazil.
  • Counsel to U.S. and international biotechnology companies in R&D collaborations related to plant genome editing technologies with five of the “Big Six” largest international agricultural biotechnology companies.
  • Represented a private equity fund in its newly-formed portfolio company's acquisition and in-license of rights to a commercial-stage biologic drug product from a Fortune 500 pharmaceutical company.
  • Counsel to a specialty pharmaceutical company in an exclusive out-license of clinical stage pharmaceutical products for treatment of metabolic disease to a leading international pharmaceutical company in Latin America.
  • Advised a publicly-traded specialty pharmaceutical company in multiple exclusive in-licenses of Phase 3 clinical pharmaceutical assets from German, Spanish and U.S. pharmaceutical companies.
  • Counsel to a plant-made pharmaceutical company in its exclusive collaboration with an international animal health company for the development of vaccine products.
  • Represented university spin-outs in licensing foundational technology from universities such as The Broad Institute, Harvard University/Massachusetts General Hospital, Columbia University, Duke University, Johns Hopkins University, University of California at San Francisco, Duquesne University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University, University of Pennsylvania, University of Virginia and Virginia Tech.
  • Counsel to a university licensee in its exclusive out-license of pre-clinical pharmaceutical assets to a publicly-traded European pharmaceutical company.
  • Advised a leading video game company in the sale of a game franchise to a global computer software company and in the development of an innovative licensing model for the client's video game development software.
  • Advised an online gaming company in a definitive agreement to acquire an online 3-D modeling company.

  • Counsel to a global solid state LED lighting and semiconductor manufacturing company in technology research and development and licensing transaction.
  • Represented a global solid state LED lighting and semiconductor manufacturing company in a Hong Kong joint venture to sell mid-power lighting class LED packaged products.
  • Represented a global solid state LED lighting and semiconductor manufacturing company in connection with its announced agreement for its $850 million sale of assets to a publicly traded German semiconductor company. The transaction was terminated before completion due to regulatory considerations.



Events & Programming

  • Presenter, Genome Editing Deals in Agriculture – Key Issues and Potential Pitfalls, North Carolina Biotechnology Center's Biotech Roundtable: Genetic Editing in Ag Biotech Program, October 24, 2017
  • Moderator, AgBio Workshop: Navigating the Big Six, CED Life Sciences Conference, March 2, 2016
  • Presenter, Protecting the Business and Your Intellectual Property, CED FastTrac TechVenture Program, November 17, 2011
  • Presenter, "Ag and Technology—The Future Being Created in North Carolina," NC Chamber Ag Allies Virtual Conference
    Speaking Engagement
  • Moderator, “The Future of Agri-Business,” NC Chamber's 2018 Agri-Business Conference, Raleigh, N.C.
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