When Seattle Genetics CEO Clay Siegall lost his father while in college, he switched from studying for an MD to studying for a PhD., and a goal to treat cancer patients. His efforts are paying off in lives saved. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

When Seattle Genetics CEO Clay Siegall lost his father while in college, he switched from studying for an MD to studying for a PhD., and a goal to treat cancer patients. His efforts are paying off in lives saved. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Fluke award winner has devoted career to making a difference

Clay Siegall is CEO of Seattle Genetics, which develops therapies for cancer patients.

Clay Siegall was 19 when his father was diagnosed with cancer. Siegall was a pre-med student with plans to become a medical doctor.

Watching his father’s treatment put Siegall on a different career path.

“When you’re 19 years old and your father is diagnosed with a cancer that would ultimately take his life, there’s a lot of changes going on at that point,” Siegall said. “I got really interested in how cancer therapies are made.”

His father died when Siegall was 24. Siegall went to graduate school and earned a doctorate in molecular genetics. He has since dedicated his career to making therapies for cancer patients. For 20 years, he’s been the CEO of Seattle Genetics, a biotechnology firm in Bothell.

Siegall is the recipient of this year’s John M. Fluke award, which is given to an “individual who has demonstrated entrepreneurial spirit, and community leadership,” according the Economic Alliance Snohomish County. Established in 1970, the award is named after the founder of the Fluke Corp.

The award will be presented at the EASC’s seventh annual meeting and awards celebration May 17 at the Tulalip Resort Casino.

“I think it’s a fantastic acknowledgement of the work that has been going on with me and all my colleagues at Seattle Genetics, so I will accept on behalf of my company,” Siegall said.

Siegall was working for Bristol-Myers Squibb when the company transferred him to manage a facility it had purchased in the Seattle area. Six years later, the pharmaceutical company closed the facility, but Siegall decided to stay in Seattle.

“My family fell in love with this area,” Siegall said. “And I had some of ideas of my own of the type of targeted cancer therapies that I thought were the next wave that could really help patients, and I wanted to pursue my own ideas.”

Siegall founded Seattle Genetics, and the company has grown dramatically in the 20 years since. The lead product is a drug called Adcetris, which is now available in 71 countries, Siegall said. The drug helps treat cancer patients with Hodgkin lymphoma.

Earlier this year, Seattle Genetics acquired Cascadian Therapeutics, a Seattle-based company that is developing a drug to treat breast cancer. Eight months ago, Seattle Genetics purchased a manufacturing facility in the North Creek area that was previously owned by Bristol-Myers Squibb. There were 73 employees at the facility when Seattle Genetics bought it, and 72 stayed on, Siegall said.

“I’m very proud of that,” he said.

Siegall’s commitment to the community extends beyond his employees. He helped develop a paid internship program that will have 64 students working for the company this summer. Depending on their majors, interns could work in a variety of roles, from doing research in chemistry and biology labs to helping the company’s attorneys to working with the financial team, Siegall said.

“I think it’s really important to play a role in helping out young people and getting them established in careers,” he said.

The company has also donated to food banks and other organizations, sponsored the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center on the annual Obliteride fund-raising bike ride, and supports the local chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Siegall said he’s fortunate that Seattle Genetics has the funds and “a lot of smart people” to make an impact on patients’ lives.

“We’re trying to make a difference in the lives of cancer patients and that’s been my focus for as long as I’ve been an adult,” he said. “I don’t take for granted that I am in a unique situation to really help out patients in need. “

“It’s amazing when you see the patients and see the impact of our therapies on these patients.”

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