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Leading by example: Amgen takes employee health seriously

Leading by example: Amgen takes employee health seriously


When not doing 'insane sports', Amgen's Europe chief Rolf Hoffmann is battling big pharma
Last Updated: 27-Aug-2010

At Amgen, the world's largest biotechnology company, health is not just the way people make their money. It is also a serious business in employees' personal lives.
The California-based company has America's largest cycling club and if you want to get into the gym at lunchtime but have not booked a spot on the treadmill, forget about it.
Even by this company's energetic standards, Rolf Hoffmann, head of Amgen's international operations, takes his exercise more seriously than most. A former Olympic swimmer for Germany, Mr Hoffmann is a self-confessed addict to "iron-man and insane, long-distance events".

This summer, the 47-year-old will compete in a 200 mile race across Switzerland - one of Amgen's headquarters outside the US - which will include cycling, swimming and "inline skating", which is rollerblading with skates on which you can reach speeds of around 25mph.
The training - up to 15 hours a week - Mr Hoffmann squeezes in at lunchtime. "It is part of the culture at Amgen. We have showers on every floor. At lunch if you don't want to go eat you can go for a run, go inline skating, go for a swim. Many people do that," he says.

Mr Hoffmann maintains that the health freakery reflects the company's drive, as reflected in the fact that just 25 years ago Amgen had two Portakabins in Thousand Oaks, California, just off Highway 101, which its founders shared with an evangelical choir. It now has 17,000 staff and is worth $80bn (£43bn).

This is particularly remarkable as the biotechnology sector is mostly made up of companies worth a few hundred million or at most a few billion, many of which are still developing products and do not yet make any money.

"It is a tremendous success story. Sales have gone from $3bn to $12bn in just the last five years. It is by far the largest biotech company in the world. Even if you stack it up versus big pharma it would be the sixth-largest pharmaceuticals company, ahead of companies like AstraZeneca," Mr Hoffmann observes.

Today, of the eight drugs Amgen has on the market, five are classified as "blockbusters" with annual sales of more than $1bn.

By Katherine Griffiths (Filed: 13/05/2006)