On March 7, 2012, Amgen announced that it had finalized an agreement to acquire Micromet, a medium-sized biotechnology company with facilities in Munich, Germany, and Rockville, Maryland. At the time of the acquisition, Dr. Patrick Baeuerle was Micromet’s chief scientific officer, and he continues to play a leadership role at Amgen as additional work is done to advance the technology that he and his colleagues worked hard to cultivate. One outcome of this work has been the announced FDA approval of a new medicine in oncology. Here’s his view of Amgen’s acquisition of Micromet.
How did Micromet get started?
The company was established as a spin-off of the University of Munich’s Institute of Immunology. The institute’s head, who was one of Europe’s most influential immunologists and cancer researchers at the time, founded Micromet in 1993 with three colleagues and a government grant. A few years later, the company received its first venture capital investment.
How did the innovative work evolve while at Micromet?
The company’s initial focus was on developing antibody-based diagnostics to detect micrometastases in patients being treated for cancer (hence the name, Micromet). With new funding, that focus soon expanded to include therapeutic antibodies to treat cancer with focus on micrometastases. At some point after I joined in 1998, Micromet got capacity to start working on the development of bispecific antibody constructs called BiTE® (for bispecific T-cell engager). The company began to co-develop with several industry partners other BiTE antibodies and monoclonal antibodies while advancing the technology. One of its partners was Amgen, which led to additional conversations about an acquisition.
How was the integration into Amgen?
It could not have been any better. Amgen was very careful not to disrupt the important work we were doing and the highly proficient development teams in Munich, which made perfect sense. After all, blinatumomab and the BiTE® technology we had worked so hard to develop was a key reason why Amgen had an interest in us. Amgen declared Micromet, which was renamed ‘Amgen Research (Munich) GmbH,' a center of excellence and accordingly staffed and financed the site in Munich. The site developed strong ties with Amgen's Translational Sciences and Discovery Research in the US, and today is also home to other important functions including business development.
Now that several years have passed, do you think the choice to join with Amgen was a good one?
Absolutely. We’ve been given tremendous resources to discover and develop novel BiTE® antibodies and to advance the technology towards increasing convenience of administration. We now form with our US colleagues a large and highly interactive team that advances a multitude of new programs. And by leveraging the BiTE® technology, Amgen is well positioned to lead the emerging area of immuno-oncology.