George B. Rathmann, Biotechnology Pioneer in Chemical & Engineering News

George B. Rathmann

May 28, 2012 - Washington, DC

by Susan J. Ainsworth

George B. Rathmann, 84, biotechnology pioneer and founding chief executive officer of Amgen, died at his home in Palo Alto, Calif., on April 22.

Born in Milwaukee, Rathmann earned a bachelor’s degree in physical chemistry from Northwestern University in 1948 and a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from Princeton University in 1952.

Rathmann then joined 3M, rising through the ranks to become manager of X-ray systems in 1969. He left 3M in 1972 to become president of Litton Medical Systems. Three years later he joined Abbott Laboratories as vice president of R&D in its diagnostics division. While at Abbott, he became intrigued with recombinant DNA, which sparked his career move into the then-emerging field of biotechnology. He became CEO of Amgen in 1980, exhibiting an exceptional aptitude for finding the funds Amgen needed during its start-up years.

He joined Seattle-based biotech firm Icos in 1990 and served as its president and CEO until 2000. He then joined genomics company Hyseq, which became part of Nuvelo in 2003, as its chairman, president, and CEO.

Rathmann was named CEO of the year in 1987 and 1988 by the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) and was the first recipient of the Biotechnology Heritage Award, given by the Chemical Heritage Foundation and BIO, in 1999.

Amgen created the annual George B. Rathmann Award in 2005 to recognize staff members who advance the company’s mission to serve patients. An ACS member from 1953 until 2008, Rathmann was a former member of C&EN’s advisory board.

He is survived by his wife of 62 years, Joy; sons, James and Richard; daughters, Sally Kadifa, Margaret, and Laura Jean; and 13 grandchildren. . . .

Link to C&EN

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