UPDATED: Seagen CEO Clay Siegall put on leave after domestic violence arrest

Seagen’s co-founder and CEO, Clay Siegall, Ph.D., has been put on leave after an alleged incident of domestic violence at his home.

Siegall was arrested for domestic violence in the early hours of April 23, the website for the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office in Washington State shows. The company’s board asked its independent directors to investigate the accusation and tapped an outside law firm to help run it.

The CEO has denied the allegations and told Seagen he’s in the process of getting a divorce.

After Siegall's arrest, Seagen named its chief medical officer, Roger Dansey, M.D., as interim CEO, the company said Monday.

“We have high standards for employee conduct, we condemn domestic violence in all its forms, and we are treating these allegations with the utmost seriousness,” Nancy Simonian, M.D., chair of Seagen’s nominating and corporate governance committee, said in a statement. “At this time, the facts are still uncertain, and our decisions will be guided by the outcome of our investigation.”

Siegall co-founded Seagen in 1997 and has been the firm’s CEO since 2002. He has also served as Seagen’s chairman since 2004. He helped build Seagen into the most prominent biotech in the Seattle area and the world’s leading antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) developer with four commercial products.

As Seagen has grown, Siegall’s annual compensation has swelled in the past few years to rival some of his Big Pharma peers. Last year, his total pay jumped 14.6% to $18.9 million.

For his part, Dansey joined Seagen in May 2018 after a stint at Merck & Co. leading certain late-stage oncology development efforts, including for PD-1 inhibitor Keytruda. As Dansey’s title isn’t permanent, he will continue to be paid under existing arrangements for his CMO role, Seagen said.

The CEO switch comes as Seagen awaits a key readout for its Astellas-partnered Padcev in combination with Merck’s Keytruda in newly diagnosed bladder cancer patients who are ineligible to receive cisplatin-based chemotherapy. If cohort K of the EV103 trial turns out positive, the nectin-4-directed ADC could potentially expand into first-line treatment in 2023, a market that SVB Securities analysts figured could be worth $4.65 billion in U.S. peak sales for Padcev.

If the allegations are confirmed, Siegall will join a list of well-known biopharma figures who have fallen from grace lately because of inappropriate personal behavior. Former Operation Warp Speed director and GlaxoSmithKline executive Moncef Slaoui left public sight following revelations of sexual harassment during his time at the British pharma. Prominent biotech entrepreneur and Massachusetts Institute of Technology biology professor David Sabatini, M.D. Ph.D., was recently ousted amid sexual harassment allegations.