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Amgen, Immunex Deal May Be Boon for Their Proteomics, Bioinformatics Programs

SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 19 - The proposed acquisition of Immunex by Amgen will lead to an estimated five-percent staff reduction, officials from both companies have said. And while it's too soon to predict how this might impact the firms' bioinformatics and proteomics operations, the deal may eventually be a boon for them.


To be sure, although both firms view bioinformatics and proteomics as integral to the new company's drug-development effort, critical questions concerning potential platform integration remain unanswered.


"It is too soon for us to get down to that level of detail," explained Amgen spokesperson Rebecca Hamm, who said a five-percent reduction in workforce is anticipated. However, she stressed that "it is not decided how it [the job losses] will trickle" down to various levels of the new organization.


But Hamm said the combined company eventually will boost its bioinformatics and proteomics efforts.


"A big plus [of the acquisition] is the scale it will provide us with R&D," said Hamm. "Having the scale to identify the number of R&D products you want to do will allow us to expand faster, including proteomics and genomics."


The potential acquisition, announced on Monday, would be the largest-ever recorded in biotechnology and calls for Amgen, of Thousand Oaks, Calif., to acquire Seattle, Wash.-based Immunex for $16 billion in stock and cash. The companies expect the deal to close in the second half of 2002.


Immunex spokesperson Josh Schroeter, who confirmed the impending staff reductions, said that "over the long term" job growth is expected in proteomics and bioinformatics.


"Bioinformatics, proteomics, and various genomics tools are parts of the tool sets we use," explained Doug Williams, chief technology officer of Immunex. But "we haven't gotten to that level of detail regarding issues of integration" of those tools.


"No two companies do bioinformatics in quite the same way," Williams continued. "We both have programs in these areas. I'm sure things developed in Thousand Oaks will benefit scientists in Seattle. It's early days as far as assessing the capabilities. The integration process will take place over the next several months to determine where core facilities will take place in the organization."


Williams, who will remain in Seattle as part of the combined company and who will take on the title of senior vice president for discovery research, added that Immunex has been building up its proteomics efforts independent of the pending acquisition.


Some observers of the acquisition see the combination of each company's proteomics and bioinformatics capabilities as a strength of the deal.


"The most interesting aspect of the merger is that proteins are very different from small molecules in many respects, and they are very difficult to manufacture," said Robert Overell, a partner in Seattle-based venture capital firm Frazier & Company and a former director of gene therapy at Immunex. "A critical mass in R&D capability around proteins is an advantage. I think [Amgen and Immunex] share a very strong interest in protein therapeutics, and the merger will allow leveraging of bioinformatics capabilities across the company."

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