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Why Dr. Clay Siegall Co-Founded Seattle Genetics

Dr. Clay Siegall is an entrepreneur in the biotechnology field. He is one of the founders of Seattle Genetics and has been its chief executive officer for the last 16 years. His company develops targeted therapy drugs for a number of diseases, including cancer. Their focus in on developed drugs for diseases that haven’t seen improvement in mortality rates for a very long time.

It was while studying for his zoology degree at the University of Maryland that he became interested in eradicating cancer. He says that someone in his family was diagnosed with cancer and he saw that the treatment was as bad as the disease itself. This family member at one point developed severe anemia because of the treatment which almost killed them. Researching farther into cancer treatments he saw things like amputations and other radical surgeries which he found appalling. He decided that he could find a better way to treat cancer.

The next step for Dr. Clay Siegall was to advance his education so that he could treat cancer. He attended George Washington University and earned a Ph.D. in genetics. He then went to work for the National Cancer Institute which he says was sort of a mix of work and an education. He entered the private industry in 1991 when he started working at Bristol Myers Squibb’s lab in Seattle, Washington, called the Pharmaceutical Research Institute.

Dr. Clay Siegall says there are a number of reasons why he wanted to start his own business. He says that while he worked for Bristol Myers Squibb he felt very constrained in what he could do with little autonomy despite the fact that we was a senior researcher. He says he also resented that when he discovered something that resulted in a patent being issued it was the management and ownership of the firm that got all of the profits.

Seattle Genetics started out with just a skeleton crew, he says. They are now the biggest firm of their kind in the Pacific Northwest and Dr. Clay Siegall has a seat on the board of other companies in the industry such as Ultragenyx Pharmaceutical.

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