The world of biotechnology was still relatively new when William Bowes Jr. and Winston Salser founded a new incorporated business in Thousand Oaks, California in 1980. It would be known as AMGen – which stood for Applied Molecular Genetics.
The company, which named as its first CEO, scientist and businessman George B. Rathmann, hoped to launch the decade by steering science to new discoveries worldwide to aid people suffering from serious illnesses. It would do so by studying the vast, microscopic world of human genes.
Over the next 40 years, the company would put its stamp on the world, making drugs for chronic kidney disease, cancer, cardiovascular disease, migraine, inflammation, osteoporosis, and other serious illnesses. It would become a premier independent biotech firm, born in America but with a presence in approximately 100 countries, employing more than 23,000 people, and making some two dozen medicines. Its therapeutics would reach millions of patients and, in more ways than one, change the practice of medicine globally.
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In 1989, just 9 years since those first days in California, Amgen established its European headquarters in Lucerne, Switzerland, with Aart Bouwer as its Head. Later, the European headquarters relocated to Zug, also in Switzerland, and more recently to nearby Rotkreuz where it now occupies a state-of-the-art building with the Swiss affiliate office. Over the next several years, Amgen would quickly establish offices across Europe, including a key manufacturing and distribution center in Breda, the Netherlands, commissioned in 1997.
Peter DeVries was one of the first Amgen employees in the Netherlands, joining Amgen in 1991. He continues to work there today. He reflects on the early days;
“Amgen rented at that time a floor in Prinsenbeek. It was in the early years at Amgen and a great deal still had to be organized: the terms of employment, procedures, and practical things such as office supplies, PCs, etc. Internet was not yet available, nor were mobile phones or laptops. A small group of dedicated people that closely cooperate with each other was all there was. You can imagine how essential teamwork was.
“What is special about Amgen for me: from being a pioneer in the 1980s to a leading biotechnology company, there is still an eye for the individual - Amgen has a culture of cooperation and collegiality.”
Amgen Breda has grown significantly since those early day – it now occupies a 5.4-hectare (13.34 acre) site employing approximately 700 employees across its manufacturing facility and the Netherlands affiliate. The production facility assembles, labels and pack around 25 million units annually.
In 2011, Amgen also purchased a 37,000 square meter aseptic operations facility in Dún Laoghaire Ireland (ADL). The facility specializes in secondary manufacturing activities and hosts over 430 employees. Among other roles, ADL has the capability to produce over 90% of Amgen's medicines, helping to ensure continuity of supply as the company expands internationally.
Read more about manufacturing in Europe
As well as manufacturing, Amgen Europe prides itself on its R&D capability, housing R&D sites in the UK, Germany, and Denmark.
Cambridge and Uxbridge are home to Amgen's largest R&D investment outside the US, featuring a quantitative biology team that provides assay development, bioassay support and profiling. Amgen Uxbridge opened in 2007, with Amgen Cambridge in 1989. Today approximately 500 staff are based in the UK, with well over half dedicated to R&D.
Amgen Research Munich GmbH (formerly Micromet GmbH) became part of Amgen in 2012. The site has about 200 staff who focus on the development of the pioneering "Bispecific Tcell Engager" (BiTE®) technology to advance the immuno-oncology field and bring new therapeutic approaches to patients.
Always dedicated to finding innovative ways to treat patients, and in small molecule drug discovery in particular, Amgen acquired Copenhagen-based biopharmaceutical company Nuevolution in 2019, now known as Amgen Research Copenhagen (ARC). Our new scientific team at ARC is a pioneer and leader in the field of DNA-encoded libraries (DEL), focused on synthesizing DNA-encoded small molecules and screening them for activity against targets.
Read more about Amgen’s R&D capability in Europe
Over 40 years, Amgen has grown from a small team in a California office park to a global biotech leader in approximately 100 countries. Capitalizing on our strengths in human genetics and molecular engineering, Amgen is excited to advance a new era of biotechnology over the next 40 years. Hundreds of biotech companies have come and gone since our founding in 1980, but Amgen is still here, and we're stronger than ever.