[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 If you see any information below that’s out of date or incorrect, let me know and I’ll fix it.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
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