The Immunex Alumni: Where Are They Now?

Xconomy Seattle — 

[Update: 10:30 am, 12/30/11] Immunex was the company that made Seattle believe it could become a world-class cluster for the biotech industry.

The company was born during the industry’s founding wave in the early 1980s. Young genetic engineering hotshots from around the world gravitated to its culture of freewheeling scientific inquiry, can-do entrepreneurship, and irreverence. Immunex, after a couple near-death experiences, truly delivered on its promise by 1998 when it won FDA approval for a breakthrough for autoimmune diseases—etanercept (Enbrel). That product is now on track to be the world’s third-best selling drug in 2014 with $8 billion in worldwide sales, according to Thomson Reuters.

But, as Seattle biotechies know well, the party didn’t last. Immunex failed to manufacture enough of its wonder drug to meet demand from patients, and couldn’t deliver investors another immediate Enbrel-caliber hit. The company, which grew to 1,600 employees at its peak in Washington, ultimately was sold to biotech powerhouse Amgen for $10 billion in July 2002. Amgen continued to build out a state-of-the-art R&D center along Seattle’s Elliott Bay, and still occupies those labs, but about 500 local jobs were lost through the merger, and many longtime “Immunoids” left over the next couple years.

More than eight years have gone by, and Seattle still doesn’t have a company with the international impact of Immunex. While many of the scientists and businesspeople who built Immunex have moved elsewhere, quite a few of its alumni have stayed in the Northwest.

To get a sense of the kind of legacy the company still has today, I’ve put together a directory with links to help alumni connect and re-connect. This list includes bigwigs like co-founders Steve Gillis and Christopher Henney, and the rank-and-file. The list includes 326 names at last count.

Now here’s the part where you can help. If you or someone you know would like to be included, please send me a note. If you see any information below that’s out of date or incorrect, let me know and I’ll fix it. You can reach me at [email protected]

Over time, I hope this story can become a richer and more valuable resource for Immunex alumni. Here’s the list in alphabetical order, with the most updated titles and affiliations I found online.

Nick Abbott, vice president, Barclays Capital

Cynthia Adkins, managing member, Adkins, Plant, Elvins, & Black

Jan Agosti, senior program officer, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Michael Aguiar, senior vice president, chief financial officer, Theravance

Maria Aiello, director of clinical development, HemaQuest Pharmaceuticals

Mark Alderson, director, pneumococcal vaccine project, PATH … Next Page »

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14 responses to “The Immunex Alumni: Where Are They Now?”

  1. Ajamete Kaykas says:

    Here are a few more that were forgotten;

    Jurgen Mulberg, Scientist Novartis Vaccine Research

    Pam Smolak, Scientist VLST

    Tom Cox, Scientist Novo Nordisk

    Ajamete Kaykas, Director Allen Institute for Brain Science

  2. Thanks Ajamete. I’ve added those people to the list above, and have added the most recent titles I see. I don’t see Mullberg’s new title with Novartis on LinkedIn, and based on her LinkedIn profile, Pam Smolak looks to be no longer with VLST.

    Like I said above in the story, if anyone wants to chime in with more updated titles, please let me know and I’ll make the change.

  3. As previous Immunex employee, I hold fond memories and just read an article about my dear old boss, Doug Williams who just accepted a new position as Executive V.P. of Biogen Idec

  4. Diane Kolb says:

    Luke, thanks for the great articles! I too read about Doug Williams and am happy to hear he’s heading back to R&D. So many talents came together under one roof at Immunex. To date, I continue to say that I have had a great career in my chosen path with many wonderful people…but so far, none has come close to the Immunex family.

  5. Stephen Cole says:

    Thanks for this wonderful summary of our Immunex colleagues’ post-Imnx lives. Wonderful.

    Immunex was the start of my career in IT. After completing my MBA post-Amgen acquisition, I have managed in a series of IT organizations, inlcuding EMC, SGI, Commvault and now Symantec.

    I will forever be indebted to Immunex for the opportunity, the environment and the wonderful professionals that I met there.

  6. Stephen—thanks for the comment. I can’t help but wonder what you think it was about the culture that made Immunex so special, and how it’s different from many biotech workplaces of today. I’d love to hear from other Immunoids on that one too.

  7. I’m an ex-Immunoid. I’m consulting in pathology in San Diego. Baloa BioConsulting, LLC

  8. Suzen says:

    Hi Luke.
    I was with Immunex in Bothell before the “Baby Poster” was released. I did stay with Amgen when we got bought, and moved to the Helix site on the waterfront. Many years have gone by and I have found myself in Denderon with other great collegues. I am the Corp. Facilities Maintenace Planner/Scheduler. Keith LaChappelle is here too. After he left when the “Baby Poster” came out, he struck out on his own and developed the He has since come back into the BioTech world and is now my boss as the Corp. Facilities Manager here in Seattle. Small world.
    Hey Immuniods, wanna hook up for a meet up @ Maggies? It’s been so long! I’m also on LinkIN, find me! Happy New Year!

  9. Cathy McSharry says:

    I worked at Immunex from 1996 to 2002 and loved every minute of it. There will never be another Immunex. It was challenging yet rewarding. We were a family who worked together to accomplish the task at hand. I truly loved working at Immunex and miss it greatly. I agree with Diane, so many talents came together under one roof at Immunex.

  10. Worked at Immunex from ’91-’94. Truly a dynamic environment composed of a work force with a collectively inspiring attitude. I am honored to have had the opportunity to experience it.

  11. breana says:

    My mom was an immunoid, and she still works for Amgen. I’m doing a project for school on both companies, but I can’t find how many employees they had at any given time. Would somebody please tell me how many immunoids there were by 1982? Thank you very much.
    sincerely, Breana

  12. From august to october of 1982, I spent 3 months there as a research consultant, in part because of my frienship w/ Jacques Bertoglio (an INSERM scientist : french équivalenbt of NIH) who worked in Immunex a couple of years. It was the very beginning of Immunex, then localized on one floor of 51, University. My best souvenir ? The TGIF ! Thank’s God It’s Friday.
    Chris and Steven were very kind to me, but I couldn’t accept their proposal because of a national commitment (Service National). Dommage ! What a shame.
    Where are they, and Chris, and Steven, and Larry (Lachman), and etc. I just found Diane Mochizuki on LinkedIn.


    Post-Scriptum : I found the mistake everybody made w/ IL-2. In fact, it’s very simple to make it works. We got a lysis syndrom w/ a multimetastaic lung carcinoma just adding 2 very spécific oligo-elements. Mysterious enough, isn’t it ?