Beyond The Printed Page | February 20, 2018

The Story Behind Seattle Genetics' Unintentional-Startup Incubator

Source: Life Science Leader

By Rob Wright, Chief Editor, Life Science Leader
Follow Me On Twitter @RfwrightLSL

The Story Behind Seattle Genetics’ Unintentional-Startup Incubator
Rob Wright (L) with Clay Siegall, founder, president, CEO, and chairman of Seattle Genetics (R), January 10, 2018

The March 2018 issue of Life Science Leader features Clay Siegall, founder, president, CEO, and chairman of Seattle Genetics. Siegall was interviewed in San Francisco during the 36th Annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference (JPM). One of the challenges of producing a print publication is there isn’t always space to share all of the great insights from an executive like Siegall. That’s one of the reasons we created our exclusive, Beyond The Printed Page section on our website. And while access to this continues to be free, to read the comprehensive feature involving Seattle Genetics you need to be a subscriber — which you can do here. We hope you enjoy this latest Beyond The Printed Page installment.

There are a number of large companies actively engaged in incubating small startups, such as what Johnson & Johnson does with its JLabs business unit. Clay Siegall, Ph.D., founder, president, CEO, and chairman of Seattle Genetics, admits incubating startups (other than his own) is not a primary focus for his company. Nonetheless, for almost two years Seattle Genetics did incubate a company — Alder BioPharmaceuticals. “I had met the founders, Randy Schatzman, Ph.D.; John Latham, Ph.D.; and Mark Litton, Ph.D., when they had worked at a previous company,” he begins. “They wanted to meet with me (which we did), and they had all sorts of questions, starting with how I went about starting Seattle Genetics.” Siegall says that answers often led to more questions, and so they ended up scheduling periodic meetings over lunch. During one of the conversations the founders were talking about the challenges of getting started — no place, no space, no equipment, and no funds. “I suggested that perhaps we could find them a small corner somewhere at Seattle Genetics,” he says. “I told them we couldn’t do it for free, but perhaps they could compensate us with some equity in the company being built, which they did.” Once the company was able to raise enough money, they moved out and got their own space. “They are a fine company, and recently announced positive data on the work they are doing to treat migraine headaches,” he shares.

Alder BioPharmaceuticals went public (NASDAQ: ALDR) on May 9, 2014, raising $80 million via its IPO. Less than four years later the company has a market value of just over $1 billion. Siegall reiterates that incubating companies is not part of the plan for Seattle Genetics. “But if an opportunity arises to help with a startup not focused on oncology, and we respect the people, we might consider doing it again.”

Want to read more about Clay Siegall? Be sure to check out this Beyond The Printed Page where he discusses Seattle Genetics’ legacy of partnering.