Features

Shawnte Mitchell – Aptevo Therapeutics

Curing cancer, legally

Will the data provide strong, tangible results or prove inconclusive? Will patients feel positive, negative or no side effects? And, most essentially, will the new therapies serve as a cure for the insidious disease that is cancer?

Right now is a critical time for Aptevo Therapeutics and its several oncology therapies. With many potential treatments still in lab and pre-clinical development and others awaiting data from clinical trials, the Seattle biotechnology company has high hopes for 2020—but it truly comes down to a waiting game, notes General Counsel Shawnte Mitchell.

Shawnte Mitchell – Aptevo Therapeutics

Shawnte Mitchell | General Counsel | Photo credit: Whitney Hardie of Hardie Photography

This all proves a unique legal challenge and landscape for the experienced health care lawyer.

“It’s an exciting time because we could very well have answers to pivotal questions in a very clear way in the next 6 to 12 months,” says Mitchell. It’s a really interesting thing to be a part of an organization going through that emotionally.”

Evolving cancer therapies

Founded in 2016, the publicly traded Aptevo Therapeutics is developing potential treatments across several therapeutic areas in oncology. In addition, the company has one FDA approved commercial product, IXINITY, used for the treatment of the primarily hereditary bleeding disorder, Hemophilia B.

As Mitchell explains, Aptevo’s trademarked ADAPTIR platform uses antibody-like proteins to leverage a person’s natural immune system—notably T and B cells—to attack cancer cells, with the goal of treating the disease in a way that doesn’t involve causing as much harm as good, commonly the case with treatments such as chemotherapy.

The company has several product candidates, including one now in Phase I clinical trials for patients with acute myelogenous leukemia, to determine the highest dose that a patient can take without getting sick.

If successful in Phase I, a Phase II trial will commence to further test the therapy’s effectiveness; followed by a final Phase III trial if the results of Phase II are positive.

It is time-intensive work with many phases, Mitchell acknowledges, but “at the end of the day we hope to have something that helps kill cancer.”

A broad legal scope

In undertaking that mission, her three-member legal team supports the business broadly—from corporate transactions and licensing, to wide-reaching insurance contracts, to execution and management of an expanding IP portfolio, to corporate and product sales compliance.

Since its inception, Mitchell has focused on activities such as the development of a compliance program that helps employees understand the laws and regulations governing Aptevo as a publicly traded company selling products to people, with the help of internal and external resources. At the same time, she and her team assist Aptevo with engaging clinical and therapeutic partners and collaborators, such as the collaboration forged with Alligator Bioscience in Sweden to co-develop a bispecific antibody candidate intended for tumor-directed treatment of solid cancers.

Shawnte Mitchell – Aptevo Therapeutics

Photo credit: Whitney Hardie of Hardie Photography

A revolutionary opportunity

Mitchell has always had an interest in science and medicine, and initially planned to attend medical school. But after earning a biological sciences degree from Stanford University and taking her Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), she decided instead to pursue a career as a health care lawyer.

The George Washington University Law School alum began her career as an associate with Ropes & Gray LLP before joining Emergent BioSolutions, a global life sciences company focused on providing specialty products that address public health threats.

Aptevo spun out of Emergent, and, as she explains, Mitchell took the opportunity to become the new company’s general counsel because she believed in its mission and the revolutionary technologies it was developing. It was no doubt a leap of faith on several fronts, she acknowledges—including relocating her family from Virginia to Seattle.

Shawnte Mitchell – Aptevo Therapeutics

Photo credit: Whitney Hardie of Hardie Photography

“It’s interesting technology that we have here at Aptevo,” Mitchell says. “I want to help give that technology the opportunity to see the light of day, to see if it can be developed into a product that can really help people.”

And it was been fulfilling to help advance the company and company strategy, she says, as well as to work with researchers and clinicians and see them do “really cool science.”

Similarly, she has had the opportunity to evolve her own leadership style and to help develop leaders within the growing company. Notably, she emphasizes the importance of “how” you are in an organization—not where you are.

“I’ve learned over the course of the years, that from the person at the reception desk to the CEO, everyone has an opportunity to be a leader in your organization,” she says.

Everyone benefits, she notes, when people shift their mindset from being a “taker” of the business to an “owner” of the business. That means that people in reception aren’t just answering phones or taking messages, they’re looking at how they can impact change and support the overall mission of the business, she says.

“It’s important for everyone in the food chain to be thinking about and mindful of that as opposed to saying, ‘This is my box, this is what I do. It’s not in my job description to do X, Y or Z,” she says.

It’s certainly been a clear, distinct and easy mindset for her to adopt. “I’m engaged in an endeavor that can really make a difference in people’s lives,” Mitchell says. “If what we do works, it could be revolutionary.”

Published on: January 16, 2020

regions:

categories: ,

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.

Testimonials

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.
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.
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.

LATEST EDITION

Fall II 2021

READ NOW

GET VANGUARD IN YOUR INBOX.

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