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What's Driving Amgen?

Executive Summary

Despite its CEO's professed distaste for biotech acquisitions, Amgen was willing to pay $16 billion for Immunex, in a bold move that ensures its growth momentum even as its key product, EPO, ages and its newly launched replacement faces uncertain prospects. Immunex makes a blockbuster rheumatoid arthritis drug, Enbrel, which it forecast will have sales of $4 billion by 2005. Amgen thinks it can drive Enbrel sales further, even though it is projecting a smaller market of $3 billion for the drug by 2005.

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Amgen/Abgenix: All About a Drug

Amgen is using its cash to buy near-term products-the fundamental reason behind its purchase of Abgenix. Indeed, the irony to this transaction is that while the promise of genomics generated the money Abgenix needed to stay alive, the product that ultimately made Abgenix's fortune is an antibody to an entirely pre-genomic target, the fourth in its target class to make it to market, and the second antibody to do so.

Amgen Moves Beyond Proteins

Amgen's revenue stream depends largely on just two molecules. It has spent loads of money on the search for replacements, but as yet has relatively little to show for it--at least, little that's been visible to those outside the company. To enlarge its opportunity set, Amgen is moving beyond its macromolecule-only heritage. A fresh cadre of executives, many from Merck, aim to add small-molecule capabilities and leverage corporate understanding of proteins and pathway biology. Amgen is also tapping into a host of other organizations whose technologies, targets, assays and very ways of thinking promise to make the firm more competitive than it could be on its own. While some investors think Amgen is making all the right moves, others are still concerned about the company's ability to bring enough new drugs to market, fast enough, to fill in behind its blockbuster proteins.

Amgen Moves Beyond Proteins

Amgen's revenue stream depends largely on just two molecules. It has spent loads of money on the search for replacements, but as yet has relatively little to show for it--at least, little that's been visible to those outside the company. To enlarge its opportunity set, Amgen is moving beyond its macromolecule-only heritage. A fresh cadre of executives, many from Merck, aim to add small-molecule capabilities and leverage corporate understanding of proteins and pathway biology. Amgen is also tapping into a host of other organizations whose technologies, targets, assays and very ways of thinking promise to make the firm more competitive than it could be on its own. While some investors think Amgen is making all the right moves, others are still concerned about the company's ability to bring enough new drugs to market, fast enough, to fill in behind its blockbuster proteins.

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