How Clay Siegall Got The Money To Fund Seattle Genetics

When Clay Siegall co-founded Seattle Genetics in 1998 the world of targeted drug therapies was in its infancy. He says that this area of medical research is increasingly important and will in the future replace cruder methods of curing diseases. One example he uses is systemic chemotherapies used to treat cancer. He says that these often do as much harm as they do good. Targeted drug therapies, though, are much easier on patients and they are much more precise in targeting diseased cells only.

Clay Siegall has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland and a Ph.D. he acquired at George Washington University. His Ph.D. was in genetics and he has used it to do research and development. One disease he has targeted throughout his career is cancer. He says that antibody drug conjugates, or ADC, show huge promise when it comes to curing various diseases. The first drug of his that received FDA approval was Adcetris and it is now being used to treat patients with lymphoma in the US and internationally.

Seattle Genetics started out with very few people working for it, he says. Clay Siegall and H. Perry Fell, Ph.D. were the co-founders of the company plus some research staff. There’s a lot of risk in starting a biotechnology company, he says, as well as developing drugs which a lot more often than not fail to pass their clinical stage. He recalls talking to venture capitalists all the time back then and two of them were Cascade and Vulcan, owned respectively by Bill Gates and Paul Allen of Microsoft fame. They both invested in Seattle Genetics when Clay Siegall held his company’s series B financing round.

Clay Siegall says that his business partner moved on in 2002 in order to start new companies. That was when Clay Siegall replaced Fell as the chief executive officer of Seattle Genetics. He has said that he’s more suited to developing drugs and looking at Gantt charts all day long while his old business partner can’t stand doing that. A number of years later Fell also stepped down as chairman which was another role that Clay took over.

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