George Rathmann, the biotechnology pioneer who served as the first CEO of Amgen and Icos, has died at the age of 84 from complications from pneumonia. Rathmann joined Amgen in 1980 in its infancy, going on to lead the company as it developed treatments such as Epogen — for anemia — Neupogen – a method for treating infections in cancer patients.
The native of Milwaukee left Amgen in 1989 to join Icos, a Bothell upstart which went on to develop the erectile dysfunction drug Cialis. Icos was later sold to Eli Lilly for $2.3 billion in 2007.
“George Rathmann was a biotechnology giant and we were privileged to have him as our first CEO. George’s vision and values are as alive today at Amgen as they were when he led the company,” said Kevin Sharer, Chairman and CEO of Amgen, said in a statement.
The New York Times notes that Rathmann earned the nickname of the “golden throat” due to his ability to sell investors and others on the companies he led. The Times noted:
With a rare combination of a scientific pedigree, business acumen and a charismatic style, Dr. Rathmann, a bearded bear of a man at 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds, became a kind of senior statesman for the biotechnology industry
Xconomy’s Luke Timmerman remembers Rathmann as a “warm and humble giant” and recalls how the biotech exec was angered by the mass layoffs at Icos following its acquisition by Eli Lilly.
From the LA Times:
Until the end of his life, Rathmann was a celebrity in medical and financial circles because of his role as chief architect of Amgen’s stunning success. At business forums he happily recalled Amgen’s early days and his quest for scientific discovery. Sometimes those in the audience would tell him how his wonder drugs had saved their lives. When he heard their stories, Rathmann often wept.