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Amgen agrees to buy Immunex, Seattle's largest biotech firm, on December 18, 2001.

HistoryLink.org Essay 3657 : Printer-Friendly Format

On December 18, 2001, Amgen, Inc. agrees to buy Immunex Corp., Seattle's largest biotech firm, for $16 billion in stock and cash.  Amgen, based in Thousand Oaks, California outside Los Angeles, is the world's largest biopharmaceutical firm. It employs 7,500 people and its major products are the cancer drug Neupogen and the drug Epogen for anemia. The Seattle firm Immunex employs 1,500 people and manufactures the rheumatoid arthritis drug, Enbrel, considered a star drug, as well as the cancer drug Leukine, and Noventrone for multiple sclerosis and cancer. The new company will operate under the Amgen name and will retain significant operations in Seattle.

Old Rivals

Christopher Henney founded Immunex with Steven Gillis and Stephen Duzan in 1981. Amgen was at one time the Seattle firm's chief rival. In 1991, the two companies came out with competing cancer drugs within two weeks of each other. (Amgen's Neupogen has outsold Immunex's Leukine by a long shot.)

Edward V. Fritzky, Immunex's president, chairman, and chief executive, talked to Amgen for more than a year. He now sits on Amgen's board of directors. At the time of the sale it was reported that he would withdraw from day-to-day operations.

Biotechnology in the Region

The new field of biotechnology (begun 25 years ago) invents drugs that work at the cell level to alter genes and cell interactions to effect cures. Other biotech firms in the region are:

  • Zymogenetics, located in Eastlake, is the area's oldest biotech firm. It has more than 200 patents, but most are a long way from the market;
  • Icos Corporation, based in Bothell, has 465 employees. Icos is working on an anti-impotence drug, Cialis, which will challenge Pfizer's Viagra when it goes on the market. It is also working on a drug for severe sepsis, an often lethal bacterial infection;
  • Cell Therapeutics, Inc., based in Seattle, has 228 employees. Cell Therapeutics manufactures Trisenox, an arsenic-based treatment, effective for a rare form of relapsed leukemia;
  • Corixa Corporation, based in Seattle, has 498 employees. Corixa is working on two cancer drugs;
  • Dendreon Corporation, based in Seattle, has 145 employees. Dendreon has a prostate cancer treatment called Provenge;
  • Seattle Genetics, based in Bothell, has 70 employees. Seattle Genetics develops monoclonal antibody drugs to combat cancer.

Immunex was at the time of the takeover in the process of building a large complex on the Seattle waterfront on Smith Cove at the foot of Queen Anne Hill and had recently renovated its processing plant in Bothell. (These became Amgen facilities.) The buyout involved cuts in personnel, mostly from Immunex, amounting to some 400 or 500 positions. Peggy Phillips, Chief Operating Officer for Immunex, left the company.

Amgen incorporated in 1980 as Applied Molecular Genetics (AMgen) and commenced operation in January 1981.

Sources:
Marni Leff, "Amgen-Immunex Merger Would Unite Like Companies," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, December 15, 2001 (http://seattlepi.nwsource.com); Marni Leff, "It's a $16 Billion Deal -- Amgen Agrees to Buy Immunex," Ibid.,, December 18, 2001; Marni Leff, "Amgen-Immunex Research Unit May Wind Up in Seattle," Ibid., December 19, 2001; Luke Timmerman, "Biotechs Attractive as Takeover Targets: Amgen's Purchase of Immunex Signals Scaling-up of Industry," The Seattle Times, December 23, 2001(http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com); Luke Timmerman, "The Signs Are Clear: Immunex Is No More as Amgen Completes Takeover," Ibid.; Amgen Website (www.immunex.com).
Note: This essay was updated on September 18, 2002.


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