In the world of cancer research, few names stand out with such distinction is at of Clay Siegall. After founding Seattle Genetics in 1998, Dr. Siegall has established himself as one of the leading cancer research entrepreneurs in the pharmaceutical industry. With the first ever antibody drug conjugate that was approved by the FDA for use in actual cancer treatment, Seattle Genetics is quickly transforming the way in which cancer is treated in the United States and throughout the world.
Dr. Siegall first became interested in cancer research at a fairly young age. While still in college, he had a family member that went through a period of chemotherapy as result of developing a rare form of cancer. What caught Dr. Siegall’s attention wasn’t so much the cancer itself, but the treatment regimen, specifically its total brutality. The family member was sick all the time and could barely function. At one point, they nearly died, not as a result of the cancer itself but as a result of developing anemia secondary to the poisonous chemotherapy that was being pumped through their veins.
This made Dr. Siegall realize that there must be a better way than the current regimens of cancer treatment. Between the outright poison of chemotherapy and the radical surgeries, including amputations, that were then used for the treatment of many forms of cancer, Dr. Siegall knew that there must be a way to restore the sick patients to health that didn’t involve the permanent maiming and scarring that the treatments in the mid-80s often entailed.
He went on to receive a MS from the University of Maryland in biology, and then a PhD in genetics from George Washington University. After successfully completing graduate school, he was hired by the national cancer institute as a junior researcher. There he worked on a number of exciting new drugs, including a category that is broadly known as targeted cancer therapies. These drugs seek to identify and destroy the tumor without systemically releasing large amounts of poisonous chemotherapy into the body.
After a stint with the national cancer institute, Dr. Siegall was recruited by Bristol-Myers Squibb as a senior researcher. It was there that he first began working on the completely novel form of targeted cancer therapy called antibody drug conjugates.