Dr. Clay Siegall is a founder and CEO of Seattle Genetics, the nation’s foremost targeted cancer therapy research and development firm. Since 1998, Dr. Siegall has led the firm from a tiny startup to become the nation’s largest producer of antibody-drug conjugates. This new and exciting class of drugs promises to yield treatments that are both highly effective and that dispense with the horrible side effects of chemotherapy and older forms of cancer treatment such as radiation and radical surgery.
Dr. Siegall first became interested in cancer research while still in college. When he was in his late teens, his father was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and was forced to undergo brutal treatments involving chemotherapy and surgery. This spurred Dr. Siegall’s interest in finding treatments that could someday perhaps cure cancer and that would leave patients without the horrible side effects of the current treatment regimen.
Dr. Clay Siegall was hired, shortly after graduating George Washington University with a doctorate degree in genetics, by the National Cancer Institute. There, he was first introduced to the new field of targeted cancer therapy. A field which promised to dramatically increase the effectiveness of some types of cancer treatments well simultaneously reducing side effects of those treatments to virtually nothing. He worked at the NCI as a researcher for approximately four years.
He proved himself to be a talented research clinician and was shortly noticed by some of the nation’s top pharmaceutical companies. One such company, Bristol-Myers Squibb, extended Dr. Siegall a job offer. He accepted and went to work for the company for the next 6 years.
While at Bristol-Myers Squibb, Dr. Siegall was instrumental in developing a new form of targeted therapy called antibody drug conjugates. These were a then-totally-new approach which relied on the body’s own defense mechanisms, antibodies, to deliver highly lethal agent to the site of the tumor directly. Because these antibodies prevented the release of the highly lethal poison into the bloodstream itself, the amount of tumor fighting cytotoxins that could be introduced into the body at any given time was dramatically increased. This meant that treatments could be carried out in only one course that were orders of magnitude more effective at actually killing tumors.