Clay Siegall develops revolutionary new class of cancer-fighting drugs

Clay Siegall, founder and CEO of Seattle Genetics, as one of the nation’s leaders in the fight against cancer. His firm has developed a revolutionary new class of drugs called antibody drug conjugates that promise to completely revolutionize the treatment of cancer. Ultimately, these new drugs may someday form at least part of the disease’s cure.

A high-flow development pipeline

Dr. Siegall founded Seattle Genetics in 1998, shortly after leaving Bristol-Myers Squibb as a senior researcher. Starting with nothing more than a skeletal staff of researchers, he quickly grew the company into a powerhouse of innovation and new drug research. In 2001, Dr. Siegall led his company to one of the largest IPOs in biotech history. Raising over $1.2 billion, the company generated enough capital to fuel research into new classes of drugs over the next decade.

Currently, Seattle Genetics has eight drugs in its development pipeline. In addition to this, it also has a further 20 drugs which has licensed out to be produced by other drug manufacturers. In 2011, it was the first company to receive FDA approval for an antibody drug conjugate. The drug, ADCeteris, is a revolutionary new treatment for refractory Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It has improved the outcomes of thousands of patients and saved countless lives.

Seattle Genetics also has a large number of patented processes by which it produces novel drugs. One of those processes involves the synthesis of antibodies from mice. Malignant tissue is introduced into the mouse’s body. This provokes an immune response, whereby the mouse produces antibodies that attack the foreign tissue. These antibodies are then analyzed using sophisticated chemical techniques. Thousands of similar molecules are then created synthetically and are tested for optimal characteristics in real patients. Once the antibodies with the best properties are isolated, the cytotoxin, which attacks the malignant tissue, is then bound or conjugated to the antibody. This is an antibody drug conjugate. Such drugs allow for massively higher doses of cytotoxic agents that are delivered directly to the site of the tumor. This dramatically increases the therapeutic window, making it possible to design treatment lethal enough to the tumor that patients only need to take one course.