Case | HBS Case Collection | January 2014

Amgen Inc.: Pursuing Innovation and Imitation? (A)

by Ian W. Mackenzie

Abstract

Set in 2009, the (A) case explores whether Amgen, a leading innovator of biotech-based drugs, should enter the emerging business of biosimilars (BS), which are essentially 'me-too' products. There appear to be sound reasons to explore this related diversification: innovation is getting harder, regulators are intent on encouraging BS, and Amgen needs renewed growth. But the possibility sparked a strong negative reaction within Amgen, not least because it contravened Amgen's mission. Internal debate was exacerbated by the presence of considerable uncertainty over the regulatory requirements for BS development and how difficult it would be to develop a BS. Some felt it played to Amgen's strengths, others felt that Amgen lacked critical capabilities. Many felt there was simply no need for any change in strategy at all. To navigate through this morass, Amgen needed clear strategic thinking. Amgen set out to see if an objective business case for entry could be built. This involved settling on a set of most likely assumptions, quantitatively estimating likely revenue and profitability, testing out sensitivity to assumptions using scenarios, and assessing the main risks of entry and of staying out. The analysis provided strong support for entry subject to the key assumptions. The (A) case also invites students to think through how CEO Kevin Sharer should handle a positive entry decision given the divided opinions across the senior management team.

Keywords: corporate strategy; pharmaceutical industry; Biotechnology Industry; Corporate Strategy; Pharmaceutical Industry; Biotechnology Industry; United States;

Citation:

Mackenzie, Ian W. "Amgen Inc.: Pursuing Innovation and Imitation? (A)." Harvard Business School Case 714-424, January 2014.