Clay Siegall first became interested in the field of cancer research at a young age. While attending college, he became aware of the barbarity of then-reigning cancer treatment protocols. Many of these involved the patient taking lethal poisons which sometimes led to the patient having permanent side effects and occasionally resulted in death. Other treatments involved radical surgery, often involving brutal excisions or amputations.
Dr. Siegall thought that there must be a better way. After graduating from George Washington University with a Ph.D in genetics, he decided to go work for the National Cancer Institute as a researcher. There, he learned the ins and outs of cancer research. He became interested in a new field that was just coming into being called targeted cancer therapies. This new line of cancer drugs promised to alleviate the horrible side effects of chemotherapy by only targeting the tumor cells, not destroying healthy tissue.
After a three year stint there, Dr. Siegall accepted a position with Bristol-Meyer-Squibb as a senior researcher. At his new job, he and his team began working on a totally novel form of targeted therapy that had never been tried before. Antibody drug conjugates, as Dr. Siegall’s team called them, were a way by which extremely lethal cytotoxins could be delivered directly to the site of malignancy with no systemic release. This meant that all of the best effects of chemotherapy could be harnessed with virtually no side effects.
Dr. Siegall decided that he would be best served by forming his own company to continue the development of antibody drug conjugates. In 1998, he formed Seattle Genetics with a sparse crew of researchers and a pittance of venture capital. Three years later, he led Seattle Genetics in its IPO, raising $1.2 billion. Over the next decade, Seattle Genetics was granted hundreds of patents and saw the first antibody drug conjugate, Adcetris, approved for full use by the FDA.
Today, Dr. Siegall’s brainchild corporation leads the industry, with 12 patented drugs in the development pipeline and 20 more licensed out to other firms. Perhaps no one has done more to further the still nascent field of targeted cancer therapy, a field which promises to one day find a cure for this nemesis of humanity.