“Very Exciting” Future for Cancer Research, Bradway Says at “Business of Biotech” Conference

Amgen CEO Bob Bradway spotlighted the company's wide-ranging portfolio of marketed and pipeline treatments for cancer during a recent keynote appearance at the "Business of Biotech" conference, sponsored by the Moffitt Cancer Center, a premier Florida cancer treatment and research network. The conference is the Moffitt Center's signature annual event, bringing together biotech companies, startups, researchers, entrepreneurs and investors for networking and collaboration. It took place in Tampa, where Amgen has a large presence through our Capabilities Center.

Bradway participated in an onstage "fireside chat" with Krystyna Kowalczyk, CEO of Oncobay Clinical, a Tampa-based clinical research organization affiliated with the Moffitt Center. Some highlights of their conversation follow.

  • What more can the biotechnology industry do to serve patients?
  • "Society needs more innovation not less," Bradway emphasized, and patients need faster access to new treatments. For instance, "there's no reason why so many people should still be dying of cancer every year." We need to adhere to the screening principles and lifestyle changes that we know work – while continuing to develop pathbreaking treatments that can make a real difference for patients. "Every day there are new opportunities for breakthroughs in this disease," Bradway said, adding that "the next decade is going to be very exciting in cancer research and development."

  • What Amgen acquisition are you most proud of?

    Bradway highlighted both Amgen's 2023 acquisition of Horizon Therapeutics and its 2012 purchase of Micromet, a leader in bispecific T-cell-engager (BiTE) therapies that harness the immune system to fight cancers, raising the "prospect of curing some challenging diseases." While the first generation of BiTE therapies targeted liquid cancers, Amgen is now developing BiTE therapies aimed at solid tumors as well.

  • How is Amgen using human genetic data to improve drug discovery and design?

    Bradway observed that Amgen is the largest company using human genetic data to inform drug development, thanks in large part to our deCODE genetics subsidiary. He explained the importance of this data by noting that even when candidate medicines show promise in preclinical research with non-human animals, those models don't always replicate how drugs work in the human body, leading sometimes to failures in later-stage human clinical trials. By using human genetic data to inform target identification, we can "tilt the odds in our favor" and improve our ability to identify drugs that will work in humans.

  • How is Amgen leveraging artificial intelligence?

    Bradway commented that Amgen is using AI to reconceive a wide range of processes – from sales, marketing, and manufacturing to R&D and process development. He declared that AI "will change how we do our business," noting that the potential of AI prompted Dr. David Reese's appointment as Amgen's first Chief Technology Officer. As happened with mobile phones, Bradway predicted, we will likely look back on the development of large language models and wonder how we could have ever gotten along without them.

  • Why is diversity so important to Amgen, and what is your company doing to drive change?

    "We think the best decisions are made when you have a diversity of inputs and perspectives," Bradway responded. Diversity "is good business, and we're committed to creating an environment that attracts people from different backgrounds." Likewise, diverse participants in clinical trials leads to better drugs. As an example, Bradway cited Amgen's efforts to recruit people of South Asian and African heritage into its clinical trials involving lipoprotein (a) or Lp(a), a risk factor for cardiovascular disease that is especially prevalent among these populations.

  • How does a CEO create a sense of authority while also maintaining a reputation for personal decency?

    "What's important," Bradway responded, "is that individuals behave and lead authentically, and if you don't, you'll get exposed." Rather than pursue a particular leadership "style," business leaders should focus instead on upholding the values that characterize their companies. Amgen's social architecture, Bradway noted, helps to distinguish our company from other biotechs. "We have a set of principles that have been in place longer than any of our individual leaders. They've served us well in the past, and they will continue to serve us well in the future."

  • Why have you stayed at Amgen as long as you have?

    "They still consider me a newbie at Amgen," Bradway quipped. Even though the company's founders have now passed from the scene, "we still have that element of being a start-up company. People are drawn to Amgen for a variety of reasons, but it's the mission that keeps them there. There's something very motivating about knowing that you're going to work – and staying there late, or getting up early – for the benefit of someone who's in need."

  • What are the biggest opportunities for our industry over the next three to five years? "

    We need profound, not incremental, innovation," Bradway declared, including new treatments that can cure diseases such as acute lymphoblastic leukemia and small-cell lung cancer. Instead of contenting ourselves with treatments that just marginally reduce "bad" LDL cholesterol, "how about profoundly lowering it?" Bradway urged innovators to "have the courage to go after innovative ideas likely to have the biggest effect sizes and the biggest impact on public health."

  • What advice would you give to someone who wants to make an impact in biotechnology?

    What's most important, Bradway declared, is determination. Amgen remained an upstart for years after its founding, and it faced many make-or-break moments. Yet it was one of just two biotechnology companies from the founding era to survive and remain independent, thanks to its "determination not to give up, to be different, to be better, and to believe in biotechnology and what it represents for patients and for medicine."

Share This Story