Executive summary

This case study of Seattle Genetics, a 20 year old biopharmaceutical company based in Washington state, USA, presents an example of the many hurdles a start-up biopharmaceutical firm must overcome to successfully bring a new treatment to patients. It explores how the process is dependent on the interplay between early and later stage investors and partnerships between different actors throughout the research and development (R&D) ecosystem. Much of the work also rests on sustaining the financing of costly clinical trials and robust protections for the intellectual property created through R&D. In the case of Seattle Genetics all these factors were pivotal to the successful launch of a new medicine in a novel class of therapies to treat patients with blood cancers and bladder cancer. Not all of the company's drug development was successful. Indeed, it saw the failure of a number of drug compounds along the way.

Note: Since this chart was created Seattle Genetics' drug Enfortumab vedotin was authorised by the FDA in December 2019 for adult patients with locally advanced or metastatic urothelial cancer.

Figure 1: The long, uncertain and expensive road for biopharmaceutical start-ups (click to open larger version in new tab)


Thanks go to Clay Siegall and Monique Greer at Seattle Genetics for their input into early drafts of this exhibition.

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