Amgen's Land Of Discovery

Biotech leader opens R&D campus in Seattle to consolidate merger assets.

Biotechnology behemoth Amgen Inc., based in Thousand Oaks, Calif., further capitalized on its acquisition of Immunex Corp. with the opening of a $625 million research and development campus in Seattle in February. Dubbed "Helix," the 750,000-square foot waterfront facility was built to consolidate several former Immunex laboratories. More than 750 Amgen employees work at the facility as researchers, process development scientists (people who evaluate the manufacturability of new discoveries for the entire company) and support personnel. "Ultimately, we're looking to accelerate the drug discovery process in order to deliver groundbreaking inflammation and oncology therapies to patients as quickly as possible," said Roger M. Perlmutter, Amgen executive vice president of research and development, when Helix opened four months ago. Amgen, which increased sales to $7.9 billion in 2003 from $5 billion in 2002, completed its $16 billion purchase of fast-growing Immunex in July 2002. With the acquisition, Amgen gained Enbrel, a blockbuster drug for inflammation therapy. With sales of the drug by both Amgen and Immunex combined for 2002, Enbrel sales increased to $1.3 billion in 2003 from $802 million the year before. Amgen, with a total of 12,800 employees, has another drug discovery site in Washington state, at Bothell, just north of Seattle, as well as sites in Boulder, Colo., and Cambridge, Mass. Additional sites for manufacturing, drug discovery, clinical trials, filling and finishing, and distribution are in Rhode Island, California, Colorado, Puerto Rico and in England, Australia, Canada and the Netherlands. Sales offices are in the U.S., Japan, Australia, Canada and Europe. More than one-fifth of Amgen's employees work outside of the U.S. At Helix, scientists collaborated with architects to design a building conducive to research and development. The labs, for instance, are horseshoe shaped with a common island for hands-on lab work and separate spaces for computer-based work. The layout is a far cry from the scattered, cramped laboratories scientists had worked in previously while with Immunex, relates Carol Pawlak, a spokeswoman for Amgen in Washington. Also, the building includes lots of impromptu meeting spaces in addition to formal conference rooms. That was deliberate. "This kind of science is very collaborative," explains Pawlak. "It takes a lot of team work." Providing for scientific collaboration wasn't the only important element that Helix's designers needed to put into their plans. They had to consider the transportation preferences of the complex's workers as well. More than half of Amgen's employees use public transportation. A result: There is a $10 million pedestrian bridge that links Helix to local businesses, local park trails, bus shelters and crosswalks.

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