C. Elliott Sigal

For his outstanding accomplishments as an engineer, physician, and scientist in the research and development of pharmaceutical products, the Schools of Engineering are proud to present the Distinguished Engineering Alumnus Award to C. Elliott Sigal.

President and Chief Executive Officer
Mercator Genetics
BSIE '73, MSIE '73, PhD '77

Sigal bust

On his Academic Interests

Being at the interface of different fields has always attracted and challenged me. Industrial engineering was attractive because I liked its interdisciplinary nature. When I was at Purdue, IE was a young field that encompassed computer science, industrial management, and traditional engineering disciplines. Purdue had an IE program at the time called large-scale systems, and in that environment we were encouraged to explore applications of computer simulations to such fields as ecology and biology. Throughout my studies I became even more attracted to IE as a rigorous, quantitative approach to decision-making that involved computer techniques and management issues.

As a freshman at Purdue I got involved in a lot of things on campus. I was in a fraternity and was class president that year. In the fall of '69 the government implemented the draft, and a wave of protests hit campus over the next year. Everybody was motivated to be in school but was acutely aware of what was going on in the world. We felt obligated to figure out how we fit into the world. The social awareness that emerged during that time provided a framework with which to evaluate career directions, and it caused me to think about how I wanted my career to affect society. That environment helped me reevaluate what I'd learned at Purdue. I knew I wanted a dimension of health care in my career, and I went on to medical school at the University of Chicago from 1977 to 1981.

On his Purdue education

Professor Alan Pritsker was a wonderful, powerful influence and a supportive individual who has been responsible for many successful careers in industry and academia. He was new to the university when I was there. He taught computer simulation techniques, and I was fascinated by that combination of industrial engineering, computer technology, mathematics, and statistics. I became so interested in the field that I eventually took leave of my graduate studies to help start a software-development company-now called Pritsker Corporation-with him in 1973.


My Purdue education is responsible for a lot of the things I've been able to accomplish. I learned at Purdue how to structure decision-making, how to prioritize in a rigorous, quantitative way-and I apply that knowledge to medical research and in my leadership of research programs in biotechnology.

Young Sigal sitting on the stairs

On career accomplishments

I'm Board-certified in internal medicine and pulmonary medicine and have been on the faculty of the University of California, San Francisco, Department of Medicine since 1988. I'm probably best-known for my research on the molecular biology of the inflammatory enzyme 15-lipoxygenase, which is believed to play a role in the oxidative processes that contribute to atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.

I've just been named president and CEO of Mercator Genetics, a biotechnology start-up company that is using technology from the Human Genome Project to discover novel disease genes and make novel diagnostics and therapeutics out of them. I foresee being able to use this technology with a variety of diseases, including asthma and schizophrenia. My background in medicine and research has made me suited to try this challenge. In using systems analysis to run the company, I've come full circle.

On the outlook for medical research

From my vantage point, the possibilities in medical research and in health care are immense, but I'm troubled by the growing lack of financial support from the government for our academic institutions. The government's outlook has changed from supporting research in the '40s, '50s, and '60s to cutting costs in ways that will stifle progress. I see talented researchers unable to work in academic environments because of funding cuts. I believe that we need our academic institutions to be very strong and viable.



President and CEO, Mercator Genetics, a biotechnology start-up company.
Vice President, Inflammation and Immunology Research, Roche Bioscience.
1994- :
Associate Adjunct Professor of Medicine, UC San Francisco.
Executive Director, Center for Inflammation Research, Syntex. Co-invented a drug for arthritis that is now awaiting clinical trials.
Assistant Adjunct Professor of Medicine, UC San Francisco.
1991- :
Graduate faculty, Molecular Medicine.
Assistant Director, Cystic Fibrosis Research and Development Program.
Assistant Professor of Medicine.
Instructor in medicine.
Clinical fellow and research fellow in pulmonary medicine, UC San Francisco. Became first pulmonary doctor in U.S. to clone an enzyme.
Vice President and co-founder, Pritsker & Associates. Served as first vice president for R&D and contributed to development of network simulation languages including SMOOTH, GERT IIIZ, and SAINT.

BSIE '73, MSIE '73, PhD '77, Purdue; MD '81, U. of Chicago.