Dr. Gunnels is a registered patent attorney practicing primarily in the areas of patent prosecution and counseling. She has over 15 years of experience developing and implementing patent-portfolio and prosecution strategies in the U.S. and abroad for clients ranging from large multinational companies to universities and start-ups. Dr. Gunnels’ experience involves drafting and prosecuting patent applications as well as conducting due diligences; drafting validity, infringement, and patentability opinions; participating in ex parte reexaminations; and working on patent litigation. Her technology areas of expertise include biotechnology, enzymes and industrial enzymatic processes, vaccines, antibodies, stem cells, animal-feed formulations, protein and peptide chemistry and formulations, pharmaceutical and cosmetic formulations, methods of treatment, chemical entities, co-crystals, catalysts, beverages, food products, and medical devices, among others.

Dr. Gunnels started her legal career at Finnegan and has since worked at Drinker Biddle & Reath, JA Lindeman & Co, and The Marbury Law Group. Prior to her legal career, she conducted research that involved molecular signaling mechanisms in the heart.

Bar Admissions

  • District of Columbia
  • Georgia
  • U.S. Patent and Trademark Office


  • University of Georgia School of Law (J.D., cum laude)
  • University of Louisville School of Medicine (Ph.D. Physiology and Biophysics)
  • University of Louisville (B.A. Biology, magna cum laude)

Representative Publications & Presentations

  • ABA-IPL 2015 Spring Conference – Mediator on the Patentable Subject Matter Panel
  • ABA-IPL 2012 Spring Conference – Mediator on the Biosimilars Panel
  • Z. Balafanova-Gunnels, R. Bolli, J. Zhang, Y. Zheng, J. Pass, A. Bhatnagar, X-L. Tang, O. Wang, E. Cardwell, P. Ping. Nitric Oxide Donor Induces Nitration of PKCe, Facilitating PKCe Translocation via Enhanced PKCe-RACK2 Interactions: A Novel Mechanism of NO-Triggered Activation of PKCe. The Journal of Biological Chemistry 277(17): 15021-15027, 2002