One of the most important names over the last few decades in the area of cancer research has been that of Clay Siegall. After having graduated with a PhD in genetics from George Washington University as well as an MS from the University of Maryland in biology, Dr. Siegall went to work for the National Cancer Institute as a junior researcher. It was there that he first became exposed to the new field of targeted cancer therapies, which promise to offer breakthrough treatments for large number of diseases that had not seen a significant progress made in their treatment over previous decades.
While at the National Cancer Institute, Dr. Clay Siegall began working on a new kind of targeted cancer therapy that uses the body’s own immune response in order to directly deliver cytotoxic chemicals to the site of malignant tumors. Although this early work did not result in immediate gains, many of the ideas that Dr. Siegall developed while working at the National Cancer Institute would prove to be seminal in his later work in the private sector.
Around the year 1992, Dr. Siegall was recruited by Bristol-Myers Squibb and appointed to the head of a research team. As a senior researcher, Dr. Siegall now had the latitude to engage in any kind of research that he wished. He used this opportunity to begin intensive research into an area that he would eventually name antibody drug conjugates, drugs that use the body’s own immune response to specifically target different varieties of malignant tumors. Because every tumor elicits an immune response from the body, creating antibodies that are specifically designed to seek out and attach to that type of tumor, these antibodies can be used as delivery vehicles for highly toxic chemotherapeutic agents.
As he developed this new form of targeted cancer therapy, Dr. Siegall eventually realized that the company he was working for was not as enthusiastic about marketing this product as he believed it should be. Dr. Siegall knew that this product had the opportunity to save millions of lives across the globe, and he strongly believed that it was his duty to make sure that it was widely available to the public.
As a result, he founded Seattle Genetics, and the rest is history.