Steve Sencer is counsel in the health care and educational institutions practices at Ropes & Gray. He advises academic medical centers, research institutes and universities on legal issues associated with scientific and clinical research, and technology transfer. He has experience in supporting the translation of university-based research innovations into practical applications through, e.g., the creation of novel legal structures to advance translational research within a nonprofit corporation, negotiation of complex licenses and research agreements, life science company formation, royalty monetization, and post-licensing issue resolution.

Steve also counsels clients on internal investigations, defending against False Claims Act and other government inquiries, particularly those arising from federally-funded scientific research. His experience also includes international matters involving research collaborations, global innovation and drug development.

Steve was in-house counsel at Emory University 21 years, including 12 as general counsel. As Emory’s general counsel, he supported both the university and its Emory Healthcare subsidiary. He represented Emory in the wide range of issues facing a large research university with an academic medical center, including corporate structure and strategic transactions. He also was the chief legal advisor to The Carter Center, an Emory-affiliated NGO formed by former President Jimmy Carter, and DRIVE, Emory’s non-profit drug development company.

Having been active in the national higher education legal community, Steve is well-known and well-respected. Among other roles, he has served on the board of the National Association of College and University Attorneys, including a term as board chair.

Prior to joining the Emory OGC, Steve was in private practice and served as an Assistant District Attorney in DeKalb County, Georgia.


  • Emory University:
    • Created the corporate structure for Drug Innovation Ventures at Emory, LLC (“DRIVE”), and its parent company Emory Innovations, Inc. (“EII”), and served as EII board chair.*
    • Lead in-house lawyer on complex healthcare and life science transactions, including $540 million monetization of HIV drug royalty stream; unique affiliation between healthcare system and insurer; start-up company formations; and research collaborations.*
    • Managed sensitive and high-profile internal investigations and False Claims Act cases involving allegations of,  e.g., research misconduct, clinical trial billing irregularities, data misrepresentation, and conflict of interest.
    • Established systems and corporate structures to mitigate risk, including Emory’s ERM Program and Threat Assessment Team.
    • Partnered in the conception and creation of programs that support drug development and global health, including Advancing Health Innovation in Africa; GAP-BioSciences; and the Queensland Emory Drug Discovery Initiative.*
*Prior to joining Ropes & Gray

Areas of Practice