Seattle Genetics founder Clay Siegall blazes new therapeutic trails

Clay Siegall attained his Ph.D in genetics in 1988 from George Washington University. He was quickly hired by the National Institutes of Health to manage one of their many cutting-edge cancer research programs. He stayed there from 1988 to 1991. He then took a job at Bristol-Meyers-Squibb, the pharmaceutical giant, as a senior researcher on their innovative line of chemotherapeutic agents. He continued this work until 1998.


Already with 10 years participating in the vanguard of modern cancer research, Dr. Siegall founded Seattle Genetics. His idea was not to compete with existing drug manufacturers’ approach to cancer treatment research. Instead, he would focus on novel means of fighting the disease, the then-nascent industry of targeted drug therapy. Remarkably, Siegall was able to secure tens of millions in venture capital before having produced even a single research paper. In 2001, he took the company public, raising an additional $50,000,000 in capital. This all took place years before Seattle Genetics had even its first drug approved for sale.


Over the 2000s, Siegall and his team of researchers worked feverishly, pursuing different strategies for fighting tumor genesis without the brutal, and sometimes lethal, secondary effects of metal-based chemotherapeutic agents. Finally, in 2009, Seattle Genetics completed its first phase I trial of its first patented drug, Brentuximab vedotin, marketed under the name Adcetris.


This would prove to be a game-changing drug in the fight against cancer. In 2011, Adcetris received FDA approval for use as a second-line treatment in Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. While this may sound like at best a modest achievement, this is the first antibody drug conjugate to be approved for cancer therapy in the United States. Dr. Siegall expects that as more phase II trials are completed, FDA approval will be extended to many other uses for the drug.


Under Siegall’s leadership, Seattle Genetics has also maintained at least 8 new drugs in the development pipeline. These are in every stage, from seeking patents to awaiting FDA approval. These drugs, which target tumor-specific proteins, hold the promise of replacing the existing chemotherapy regimens and making cancer treatment bearable for patients and their families. Clay Siegall has been and continues to be a leading figure in the fight against cancer.