Meet the man behind antibody drug conjugates, Clay Siegall
One of the problems that have traditionally faced the treatment of cancer is the extreme side effects involved in the mainline treatments. The three main modes of cancer treatment, since 1950, have consisted of chemotherapy, radiation and radical surgery. All three of these have severe and lasting side effects that may be bad enough to threaten the patient’s life. It’s long been the goal of cancer researchers to find drugs and other methods to treat this disease effectively that do not involve such heinous side effects.
Starting in the late 1980s, this led to the introduction of a number of different approaches in the research, development and implementation of various cancer treatments. The broadest category of these drugs is what’s known as targeted cancer therapies. This is a category of drugs that involves everything from genetic manipulation to the delivery of drugs directly to the site of malignant tissues using antibodies. Although the development of this category of drugs has been slow, throughout the 1990s, great strides were made in the development of real world applications of the various concepts.
One of the most prominent and successful implementations of targeted cancer therapy has been the concept of antibody drug conjugates, a class of drugs that use human and synthetic antibodies to deliver highly lethal cytotoxins directly to the surface of a tumor. No one’s name is more closely associated with this highly innovative class of drugs than that of Clay Siegall. Having been a professional cancer researcher for over 15 years, Dr. Siegall began working on antibody drug conjugates in the mid-90s, while he was employed by pharmaceutical giant Bristol-Myers Squibb. Dr. Siegall and his team were one of the first to successfully synthesize a viable antibody drug conjugate that could be used in an actual patient to treat cancer successfully.
In 1998, Dr. Siegall founded his own company, Seattle Genetics, which was dedicated solely to the development and research of antibody drug conjugates. Started with little more than a skeleton crew and no patents to its name, Seattle Genetics quickly developed into a powerhouse of targeted cancer therapy research and development. In 2001, the Seattle Genetics IPO raised more than $1.2 billion, a record for any biotech firm up to that point. Under Dr. Siegall’s leadership, Seattle Genetics developed its first FDA-approved antibody drug conjugate, ADCetris.
Today, this drug saves thousands of lives every year.