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George Rathmann

Founding Chairman, Amgen

We had a pretty good role model in Genentech, and as it unfolded, they were even better. So that the month I started at Amgen, Genentech went public. That told us something. They had the courage to go public with a company that was not making money, that had no products, no sales, and that was almost a first in its own right. But it meant to us, "Well, when we need it, we'll be able to raise money and go public, " and on and on. Genentech had really been the visionary company that said, "This is the moment in time." Of course, sometimes being second, you actually get some benefits of not having to be the guy that breaks all the ice, and you can follow the better -- maybe more attractive -- pathway. So it took about five or six years, and then Amgen really outstripped Genentech. But it was certainly not without the guidance that Genentech provided, and us getting going in the right channels. We would never have gone into the pharmaceutical thing, for example, if it hadn't been that Genentech showed it was feasible. We had some programs, but they weren't very successful at first. And it was discouraging, and you thought about the huge cost of the FDA. And you just thought, ""Can you really do this?" And Genentech said, "Yeah, we can do it. We're going to be the next pharmaceutical company." So I said to our Board, "We can do it. We can be the next pharmaceutical company," and two of the pharmaceutical people on my Board just about killed me on the spot. "You'll never be a pharmaceutical company. You can't do that from being -- a biotech company should never try to be a pharmaceutical company. Bring your products to the pharmaceutical industry and that will be the way to exploit them. Don't try and do it yourself." "Well, let's watch Genentech. They're doing pretty well." "I don't think Genentech is a reasonable company as a model for this company. We don't want to use Genentech." Mm, maybe. But we did, and we learned a lot, and they did show us the right way.
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George Rathmann

Founding Chairman, Amgen

The stock went from $18 a share, with a lot of enthusiasm, to $12 a share, with somewhat less enthusiasm, to $9 a share, to $6 a share, to $3.75. That's a big burden to have to carry, because you have investors that are very disturbed, and you have, supposedly, employees that are disenchanted. Except it never happened. The people at Amgen always felt that we were on the right track, we were going to do great things. They had great science. They liked each other. They knew they were brilliant. We had a brilliant scientific board, and we knew that we had the right ammunition to win the war. But there were times that it took a lot of that kind of enthusiasm -- and might have seemed to some people misguided enthusiasm -- and that's what sustained the effort. We were sort of even prepared to change direction. We weren't locked in by any rules of the company that we couldn't go this way, you have to go that way. That happens today a lot more. Even the successful biotech companies will tell you that, well, they can't go into that field because their franchises are over here. And I always worry about that. I think I like the uninhibited approach. It's dangerous. You can spend too much money, you can scatter your shots. But boy, it's hard to predict ahead of time where the answers that are really going to pay off are. So we had the good fortune that we could change direction with ease. And the board that we had was visionary enough to say, "Well, if that's what you fellows want to do, then we'll support that." So we went in and out of fields, and we went back into the pharmaceutical thing, even though the first pharmaceuticals we tried to work with hadn't been very successful. And then huge advances were made by some really wonderful scientists in the company, and they set the stage. It's basically -- it's all science. The era that Amgen was in -- and I think Genentech started it -- it's all science. You think business is it. Well, without the science, you've got absolutely nothing. And the science that you have is closely linked to academic science. So there's a huge transition to make it a business proposition, but you still have to have really some of the best scientists that are around in that field at that time.
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George Rathmann

Founding Chairman, Amgen

George Rathmann: We thought we had successes in those eight products. The success of finding that you can make chicken growth hormone, I'll tell you, it made Genentech very envious. We were the first to have chicken growth hormone. There are nine billion chickens in the world, four billion chickens in the United States. This was going to be a great thing. It just happened that it didn't do anything to the growth of chickens. The prediction was that it would enhance their growth, they'd grow more efficiently. They might even grow bigger. We talked about chickens as big as turkeys, and they never got any bigger than chickens. They weren't any cheaper, and they didn't get there any faster. So that was one of those. It was a great success that we got the gene and it functioned as a growth hormone. It just didn't affect the commercial end of the chicken market -- broiler market as it was called. And then we had indigo. We made indigo, and brilliant science work, and made indigo in bacterial cells, E-coli, common bacteria, and we were able to make indigo blue dye. It was a hundred million-dollar business. We thought we'd certainly get a piece of that. But we couldn't dislodge the existing ways of making the drug, even though it involved toxic chemicals and so on. Environmentally, the Amgen approach was far superior. But the overall economics weren't there. So that was a disappointment.
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George Rathmann

Founding Chairman, Amgen

Interferon, as I mentioned today. The Holy Grail, we thought. If you have an interferon, you're going to have the cure for everything. Well, it didn't work. As far as we could tell, it didn't work. The interferon we had just didn't do anything particularly useful. But we just kept looking around and looking around, and the first big success was a program we had started at the very beginning of the company. So it wasn't redirected, it was just that we were now spending more time on the pharmaceutical side. And this was erythropoietin -- EPO, as it's called. Everybody knew since 1907 that there was a molecule that would cause red cells to form, that it existed probably in the bloodstream. In 1947, 40 years later, it was discovered that it was actually produced in the kidney. And 20 years after that, somebody was able to isolate a small amount from a patient that was actually spilling over into their urine, because they were aplastic anemic patients, and that would cause a very high level of erythropoietin, so you got some isolated material. So all that process taking years and years and years, and when we picked up the ball, it was to take that first smidgen of EPO and see what we could do. And a Taiwanese scientist just worked night and day, and I mean night and day. And he was working in the face of people saying, "Fu-Kuen Lin " which was his name, " there isn't really much hope you're going to find this." Genentech couldn't find it. Biogen couldn't find it. A half a dozen other biotech companies had looked like they'd tried to find it, but they can't find the gene. But there has to be a gene. I mean, you know there has to be a gene. The fact that you can't find it is almost a paralyzing experience, but you know it has to be there.
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Lloyd Richards

Tony Award-Winning Director

Lloyd Richards: I worked in a barber shop one time. I sold papers from the time I was eight years old or something like that, which was tough because people didn't pay you. There you were running down the street delivering papers, and you'd go around on Saturdays to collect the few pence that it was. That was tough because people took advantage of kids. I sold magazines, Ladies Home Journal, and all those other things that one does to make a buck. Then I worked in a barber shop, I shined shoes, cleaned up the barber shop. At college, I ran the elevator. You do all kinds of things. That makes it possible not only to live, because it wasn't just subsistence that we were concerned with. We were concerned with the future, and making a future possible, by going to school, getting an education, and making a life.
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Lloyd Richards

Tony Award-Winning Director

Lloyd Richards: You tried to get auditions and when you finally got an audition, they said, "Fine, good, hey, I love your talent, but we don't have anything for you." The fact was with there being so few roles, and the fact was, I did not necessarily in radio come over as a black actor. But they would say, "There are things you can play, but I can't cast you." Why? "Well, you know there are such things as sponsors, and our programs go into the South, and if it was ever known that you as a black actor were playing something else, then " So, you ran into that all the time. You weren't generally told that, but you knew that was behind it.
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Sally Ride

First American Woman in Space

Sally Ride: It was hard to become an astronaut. It was hard to make it through the selection process and the training itself was very difficult, not anywhere near as much physical training as people imagine, but a lot of mental training, a lot of learning. You have to learn everything there is to know about the Space Shuttle and everything you are going to be doing, and everything you need to know if something goes wrong, and then once you have learned it all, you have to practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice until everything is second nature, so it's a very, very difficult training, and it takes years.
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