Amgen finds a new top scientist in Novartis veteran Bradner

Amgen has a new top scientist, announcing Thursday the appointment of Novartis veteran and prolific biotechnology startup founder Jay Bradner alongside another change to its leadership team.

Bradner led the Novartis Institutes of BioMedical Research — the Swiss pharmaceutical giant’s Cambridge, Massachusetts-based research hub — from 2016 until last year. Now at Amgen, he’s serving as both chief scientific officer and executive vice president of research and development. He succeeds David Reese, who is switching from head scientist to chief technology officer.

“The steps we are announcing today reflect our conviction that the rapid convergence of ‘biotech’ and ‘tech’ will unlock the next frontier of innovation in biotechnology,” said Robert Bradway, Amgen’s CEO, in a statement.

Bradner was an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and a laboratory head at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. He co-founded several biotech startups before he joined NIBR, which doubled down in cancer research during his tenure.

He’s also credited with helping Novartis branch deeper into more cutting-edge areas of drug development like cell and gene therapy, as well as reshaping how the company works with smaller biotechnology firms. That cultural shift appears to have remained following Bradner’s departure in October 2022. This year, the company entered a partnership with Bicycle Therapeutics, bought a gene therapy from Avrobio, and licensed genetic medicines from Legend Bio and Voyager Therapeutics.

The executive change-ups come about two months after Amgen completed the largest acquisition, by dollar amount, in its history. The $28 billion purchase of Horizon Therapeutics stocked Amgen’s portfolio with a dozen products that collectively brought in $1.8 billion over the first six months of this year.

Amgen’s top-selling drug, the inflammatory disease treatment Enbrel, is set to lose market exclusivity by the end of the decade. So the company has turned to dealmaking to offset the expected revenue loss.

From July through September, Amgen recorded $6.5 billion in product sales, a 5% increase from the same three-month period in 2022. The leukemia therapy Blincyto and the osteoporosis drug Evenity hit record highs, while sales of the cholesterol-lowering medicine Repatha rose 31% year over year, to $406 million.

Amgen says its focus is on four areas of drug research: oncology, inflammation, general medicine and rare disease. The company also develops biosimilars, and early this year launched a copycat version of AbbVie’s blockbuster Humira in the U.S.

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