Five years ago Amgen was the world’s largest biotechnology and was, by many accounts, the darling of Wall Street. But, today, there is little mention of the once formidable biotechnology company that many startups attempted to emulate. Like other companies, Amgen ran into pipeline problems, medical issues with existing blockbuster drugs (remember the whole hematocrit brouhaha over Epogen and Aranesp its flagship anemia products), lower drug sales and ultimately the perception that the company had lost its innovative edge. However, it now appears that Amgen is making something of a comeback and may have been quietly preparing itself for its “rebirth” over the past few years.
According to an article in today’s NY Times, Amgen agreed to purchase BioVex, a closely held oncology company for $425 million and as much as $575 million in milestone payments. BioVex’s lead product, an experimental cancer vaccine Oncovex, is in late stage clinical development. It was developed to treat metastatic melanoma. Oncovex is also being evaluated for head and neck cancer. Over the past five years, Amgen has acquired seven companies (with an average deal value of about $264 million) in oncology and other therapeutic areas indicating a willingness to create new drugs to treat diseases rather than symptoms commonly associated with them.
In other news, the company announced that it was raising it price for some of its largest selling drugs including Aranesp, Neupogen and Neulasta. Another sign that the once mighty company may be trying to get back into the game and compete with archrival Genentech (now a subsidiary of Roche) for the title of the world’s largest biotechnology company.
Until next time...
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