When you’re in your 20s, you think you know everything. When you’re in your 30s, you kind of realize you don’t. Now, I’m in my 40s, and I know I don’t know much.
Clay B. Siegall, Ph.D., co-founded Seattle Genetics in 1998 and is the company’s President, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board. A scientist by training with an emphasis on targeted cancer therapies, Dr. Siegall built Seattle Genetics on a foundation of scientific innovation, rigorous research and drug development practices as well as a passion for helping patients. He has guided the company to its current leadership position in developing antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) and in securing the 2011 FDA approval of its first ADC product, ADCETRIS® (brentuximab vedotin). Under a collaboration with Takeda Pharmaceutical Company, ADCETRIS is now a global brand that is approved in more than 65 countries. Seattle Genetics is also advancing a diverse pipeline of proprietary ADCs for the treatment of cancer.
Under Dr. Siegall’s leadership, Seattle Genetics has entered into multiple strategic licenses for its ADC technology, including with Genentech (Roche), AbbVie, GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer, that have generated more than $350 million to date. Across internal and collaborator programs, there are more than 20 ADCs in clinical development using Seattle Genetics’ technology. Dr. Siegall has also led Seattle Genetics’ capital-raising activities, securing more than $1.2 billion through public and private financings, including the company’s initial public offering in 2001.
Prior to co-founding Seattle Genetics, Dr. Siegall was with the Bristol-Myers Squibb Pharmaceutical Research Institute from 1991 to 1997 and the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health from 1988 to 1991. He serves on the Boards of Directors of Ultragenyx Pharmaceutical, Alder BioPharmaceuticals and Washington Roundtable. Dr. Siegall has been the recipient of a number of awards, including the 2013 University of Maryland Alumnus of the Year for Computer, Math and Natural Sciences, and the 2012 Pacific Northwest Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year. He is an author on more than 70 publications and holds 15 patents. He received a Ph.D. in Genetics from George Washington University and a B.S. in Zoology from the University of Maryland.
Where did the idea for Seattle Genetics come from?
Helping patients is the primary focus of Seattle Genetics. Watching my father’s progression with cancer from when I was 19 years old until his death when I was 24 made me acutely aware of the limited tools available to oncologists at the time. I wanted to improve those tools. I earned a doctorate in genetics from George Washington University and then I spent years working for Bristol-Myers Squibb in their Pharmaceutical Research Institute, which brought me to Seattle. I studied how you should run a company and I could not have had a better experience to prepare me.
My goal in the world is to treat cancer patients and do better than what we’re doing today with targeted drugs, and I love that I wake up every day and I’m excited about it. I’m not just saying that. It’s what I do. I’ve been doing it for 30 years.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
When you’re in your 20s, you think you know everything. When you’re in your 30s, you kind of realize you don’t. Now, I’m in my 40s, and I know I don’t know much. Learn as much as you can. Interact with very smart people who have expertise in many areas.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
An important component of our business strategy is collaborating with other industry leaders and innovators in oncology drug development. Our ADC collaborations have extended the reach of our technology, allowing us to place resources into new ideas and new approaches to help patients.
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Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.