In the 1980s, biotechnology represented a new frontier in science. The industry’s first company, Cetus Corporation, struggled with poor management – a move that motivated William Bowes to leave the board and form his own company, Applied Molecular Genetics.
In 1980, AMGEN had three employees – among them, UCLA scientist Winston Salser.
After raising $200,000 from six venture capitalists, Bowes hired George Rathmann from Abbott Laboratories to head the new company.
By 1983, AMGEN had raised an IPO of $42.3 million and employed 185 people at its California headquarters.
One of its earliest accomplishments, scientists at AMGEN – using ovarian cells from a Chinese hamster – isolated and cloned a gene that stimulates red blood cell production. In 1989, the company began selling the substance as Epogen, used to treat anemia.
Soon after, the company introduced Neupogen, a drug that stimulates white blood cell production in those receiving chemotherapy or suffering from cancer and infection.