Case | HBS Case Collection | December 2005 (Revised August 2006)

Amgen Inc.'s Epogen--Commercializing the First Biotech Blockbuster Drug

by Felix Oberholzer-Gee and Dennis A. Yao

Abstract

Amgen Inc.'s Epogen was the first biotech blockbuster drug. Epogen helped prevent anemia, a condition that leads to severe fatigue, increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and even death. At the time, the market for Epogen, which included dialysis patients and persons with cancer undergoing chemotherapy, was estimated to be a $1 billion opportunity. After a critical scientific breakthrough, which allowed Amgen to identify the EPO gene, the company applied for a number of patents to protect its achievement. However, much to its surprise, Amgen learned that EPO had already been patented. Genetics Institute, the holder of the patent, demanded a royalty-free cross-license. Amgen's manager needed to decide how best to compete with its rival.

Keywords: Health Care and Treatment; Strategic Planning; Competition; Patents; Innovation and Invention; Pharmaceutical Industry; Biotechnology Industry; United States;

Citation:

Oberholzer-Gee, Felix, and Dennis A. Yao. "Amgen Inc.'s Epogen--Commercializing the First Biotech Blockbuster Drug." Harvard Business School Case 706-454, December 2005. (Revised August 2006.)