Jeffrey C. Pepe – Silverback Therapeutics

Calling Dr. and General Counsel Pepe

Talk to Jeffrey C. Pepe and it’s obvious he’s as much scientist as legal boss of Seattle-based biopharmaceutical startup Silverback Therapeutics, advancing potent first-in-kind immunotherapies.

He’ll put in layman’s terms the complex immunotherapies Silverback anticipates bringing into the clinic later this year. If all goes well—and that’s an issue considering how COVID-19 threatens to set back practically every industry— several Silverback drugs will be in clinical development in the next few years for treating various cancers, fibrotic conditions, and viral infections.

Jeffrey C. Pepe – Silverback Therapeutics

Jeffrey C. Pepe | General Counsel and Senior Vice President | Silverback Therapeutics

“We have to manage to keep the science going on some level,” the personable Pepe tells Vanguard this spring while—like so many folks—working from his home north of the hard-hit Emerald City. “Even an essential healthcare business like ours has to do a lot of planning to ensure the employees who are working on-site are safe while performing important experiments that advance Silverback’s clinical and pre-clinical programs.”

That includes Pepe negotiating deals with clinical research organization and clinical trial sites. The doctorate he earned in microbiology and molecular genetics is proving just as valuable to Silverback as his subsequent credentials in patent and trademark law, both leading to his hiring last August as general counsel and senior vice president. Silverback is still a lean operation, albeit one that Pepe thinks has the potential to make its mark in the ongoing war against cancer.

From magic to mainstream

Pepe acknowledges it wasn’t so long ago when immunotherapy—the activating or suppressing of a patient’s immune system to fight disease—was perceived as “voodoo magic.”

More recently, immunotherapy has become known in the mainstream for cancer treatment. Silverback, using its proprietary ImmunoTAC™ platform, is pioneering therapies that have potential against solid tumors by fueling stimulating natural anti-cancer immune responses that are unattainable with current therapies.

Jeffrey C. Pepe – Silverback Therapeutics

Silverback, Pepe explains, has designed drugs that can be administered into blood circulation but are targeted to act locally by reprogramming the surrounding tumor environment, essentially activating dormant immune cells to attack the cancer cells. He’s eager to see results from the clinical trial that initially will focus on patients with breast, lung, and gastric cancers, and later progress to other types of the disease.

“We’ve got the runway now to do it,” he says, in reference to Silverback moving into a development phase by securing $78.5 million in a Series B funding round this past March that’s a primary gauge of investor interest. It was among the many to-do’s that landed on his desk shortly after he joined the team.

In addition to managing that workload, he’s doing everything from contracting with the company’s coffee vendor—this being Seattle, the standards are high—to managing Silverback’s extensive patent portfolio to dealing with such matters as employment law as the Silverback workforce grows, and the many rules and regulations that face any company involved in the life sciences.

But, as he says, it’s all part of the fun of being with a company striving to make a difference in the greater good. And that was something Pepe had long wanted to do.

Science came first

He first thought he’d do it as a researcher, Pepe having earned a BS in biochemistry in 1987 and enhancing that degree with a doctorate six years later—all from UCLA—and then a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Washington.

But the early- to mid-1990s weren’t opportune times for new biotech Ph.D. grads. Though a young father of two, he still opted for Seattle University School of Law in 1997, and a few years later served as an adjunct professor for a decade in addition to other roles in the legal profession.

He started his legal career as an associate at the same firm where he clerked as a student, Seattle-based Seed IP Law Group. Years later, after a stop with another law firm and in-house at two biotech companies, he came back to Seed IP as a partner in 2012, advising private and public companies, board members, and venture capitalists.

Jeffrey C. Pepe – Silverback Therapeutics

His clients, including a variety of life sciences companies, Pepe seemed the right choice to aid Silverback when the need for a general counsel arose. Though he had mixed feelings about leaving Seed IP, his new employer also had plenty to offer, including a solid scientific platform, excellent scientists and management, and the opportunity to help provide legal guidance at an early stage company.

“As general counsel in-house, you are at the intersection of the science, the business, and the law, and that’s a lot of fun,” he says. “You’re in the middle of everything such that I can collaborate closely with researchers since I can speak their language, which in turn allows me to ensure our business goals are aligned with our science. The analytical mindset that I cultivated in the lab has lent itself very well to my legal career.”

He knows the score

Though he says there often are times when a situation might call for quick judgment as opposed to time-consuming deliberation and collaboration. Also, at times, in less-than-hospitable surroundings.

Jeffrey C. Pepe – Silverback Therapeutics

But through one of his extracurricular activities, Pepe says has honed this skill. For that, he can partially credit his Argentinian-born parents who instilled in him a love for soccer. Pepe played the game as a kid and for years has refereed at multiple levels, in the very multicultural Seattle area, to boot, where soccer is taken most seriously.

“It’s taught me how to deal with difficult situations and think on my feet,” he says with a laugh. “As a ref, you’ve got to digest a situation right away, often-times in an adverse situation, and face angry coaches, players, and fans.”

The biotech and biopharma game can also be fast-moving—immunotherapy development a prime example—there seem sure to be many times when Pepe will be called upon for a quick answer. But he’ll have a wealth of in-depth scientific know-how to back up whatever legal advice rendered.

Published on: April 30, 2020



Showcase your feature on your website with a custom “As Featured in Vanguard” badge that links directly to your article!

Copy and paste this script into your page coding (ideally right before the closing tag) where you want to display our review banner.


It was a great honor to be featured in Vanguard Law. Working with every member of the team, from the initial interview with Erin Clark, through production with Victor Martins, writing the article with Taryn Plumb and creating the final content with Dave Gushee, was a true pleasure. Everyone was very professional, enthusiastic and supportive, and their creative approach and positive attitude clearly came through in the final product.
– Kevin C. Rakowski, Senior Vice President, Deputy General Counsel, Compliance with Radian Group Inc.
I was honored to be the subject of an article. I enjoy reading Vanguard articles and seeing how other attorneys got to their positions and see their jobs. It's also interesting to see how different law firms partner with the subjects of the articles.
– Henry Marquard, in-house counsel, Stanley Consultants Inc.
As promised in advance, my feature in Vanguard has increased my visibility within the profession and prompted more than a few people I have not communicated with recently to reconnect. One of the Italian law firms I have used in the past is now in the process of interviewing me for an article on their website and tweeting out the feature story. Activity and the number of people connecting with me on LinkedIn has soared, which is great. The Vanguard writers and editorial staff were great to work with—highly professional and made the effort to make the experience both fun and rewarding (they were also respectful of the time pressures and demands all lawyers face). I was very pleased with the experience and the final outcome. Needless to say, I have been very pleased. All in all working with Vanguard has been a very positive experience which generated good publicity for both Shawcor and myself. My sincere thanks.
– Tim Hutzul, General Counsel, ShawCor Ltd.
The piece highlighting my company, Bob Baker Enterprises, Inc., came out fabulous. Our company is in the new and used car sales and service industry. Everyone was great to work with and extremely professional. They produced a high-quality product and have provided expert assistance and guidance post-production of the article.
– Wade Poulson, General Counsel, Bob Baker Enterprises Inc.


Spring IV 2024



  • * We’ll never share your email or info with anyone.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.