Moving to bolster its research and drug discovery capabilities, Amgen announced last week that it will pay $1.3 billion to acquire Tularik, a South San Francisco-based company that specializes in small-molecule gene regulation therapies.
The acquisition of Tularik will give Amgen, the world's largest biotechnology company, its first operational base in the San Francisco biotech hub. It may also broaden Amgen's offering of small-molecule therapeutics. Tularik, which has no sales revenue, currently has eight candidates in clinical trials, including cancer, immunology, and metabolic disease therapies.
Amgen, based near Los Angeles, already owns 21% of Tularik, dating back to a research agreement formed last year to study amplified oncogenes.
"For Amgen's pipeline, it's an important acquisition," explains Dennis Harper, an analyst with Deutsche Bank North America. "Tularik's diabetes drug, T131, especially, has blockbuster potential. Amgen is also getting top-notch scientists." Harper notes that David V. Goeddel, founder and CEO of Tularik, was the first scientist hired by genetic engineering major Genentech.
Goeddel, who will become the head of Amgen San Francisco, says Amgen is supportive of Tularik's mission of developing drugs that work by regulating gene expression. "Amgen has recognized the value of our employees and our ability to consistently and successfully bring small molecules into the clinic," Goeddel says.
Calling Tularik's research capabilities "a rare asset and a great strategic fit," Amgen CEO Roger M. Perlmutter says Amgen's strength in protein, antibody, and small-molecule drug development, as well as its commercial infrastructure, will accelerate the smaller firm's activities.
Harper notes that while Amgen has been criticized for a dearth of immediate new drug prospects, "the depth and breadth of their research is underappreciated. They have 40 products in development and one of the deepest pipelines in the industry."