In an industry as dynamic and competitive as healthcare, standing out requires outstanding ingenuity, while still maintaining a dedication to patient wellbeing and care. For California-headquartered biopharmaceutical company Amgen, which last year celebrated 40 years of providing innovative and life-changing treatments to patients, being a leader is baked into its DNA. Over that period, 70% of the drugs launched by the company were first-in-class.
“When Amgen was founded four decades ago, most companies were producing chemical-based, small-molecule drugs,” says Amgen Taiwan General Manager Joyce Lee. However, she says, the company was very clear that it wanted to focus on developing biologics – large, complex proteins made from living organisms. “I think that innovative mindset is what really sets us apart,” she says.
Lee notes that given the high cost of producing biologics, Amgen is not only devoting significant efforts to R&D, but also working to reduce manufacturing costs, with the ultimate aim of benefitting patients and payers. She also points to the company’s efforts in developing biosimilars, which cost only around three quarters of the price of the original biologics. In a single-payer market like Taiwan, having an affordable option for groundbreaking drugs is essential, Lee says, as it allows the government to invest the savings in other needed areas and improves patient access to medicines.
Amgen’s perseverance in this area has presented it with ample opportunities for growth. Over the past five years Amgen Taiwan has devoted itself to delivering innovative health solutions to patients through groundbreaking biologic therapies in the areas of bone health, cardiovascular, nephrology, oncology, and hematology. It has also introduced biosimilars in Taiwan to increase patient access to biologics. The company’s Taiwan team has expanded so rapidly – from just 30 employees in 2016 to a current 130 – that Lee made the decision to move the company to a larger, more accommodating office.
After a year of searching for the right location, as well as designing and building the office, Amgen Taiwan moved into its new accommodation in Taipei Nanshan Plaza in early 2021. The new facility adopts Amgen’s NextGen Workplace concept, which allows for new models of workplace collaboration and connection to foster exploration, increase innovation and productivity, and improve workplace culture for an agile workforce. The expanded presence also increases Amgen’s footprint in Taiwan and enhances its branding and image as a premier biotech company.
According to Lee, the new office gives staff the capacity to help carry out the company’s 2025 Vision, an update of its earlier outlook for 2020. The Vision, devised by Lee and her leadership team, sees Amgen Taiwan becoming a leader in the field of digital health and boosting its already strong engagement with public-sector partners. The major aim of these public-private partnerships (PPP), says Lee, is to improve patient access to new, innovative drugs.
“We understand that we can’t just silo ourselves within our industry, especially given the rapid changes to the external environment,” she says. “The COVID-19 pandemic really taught us that we need collaboration across many different industries and sectors, and PPPs have always been part of Amgen’s DNA.”
Among the PPP initiatives Amgen Taiwan has helped launch over the past several years, the annual AmCham Longevity Forum that it sponsors jointly with Cigna is a key example of the company’s commitment to working with stakeholders to find solutions to Taiwan’s future healthcare challenges. Bringing together voices from industry, government, and academia, the event explores ways of tackling issues related to Taiwan’s aging society and promoting healthy aging. The third Longevity Forum will be held in the fourth quarter of 2021.
Amgen is also dedicated to helping prevent conditions related to aging. Through its partnerships with various local governments, the company has conducted osteoporosis screenings in Changhua and Yunlin Counties, and it recently provided the offshore island of Matsu with its very first DEXA scanner for measuring bone density.
Looking ahead, Lee says that her goal is to continue engaging a variety of stakeholders in Amgen’s efforts to transform Taiwan’s healthcare system. She also looks forward to honing the company’s talent development strategy and promoting Amgen as an ideal place to work for passionate, entrepreneurial people who are eager to develop their skills.
“Amgen places immense value on fostering and enhancing the talents of our colleagues, as well as enabling their growth, both personally and professionally,” says Lee. “I’m keen to invite talented people that have an interest in specialty care and have high expectations for their careers to come work with us. We ultimately want our employees to become the top talents in Asia.”