ASN Foundation for Kidney Research


George B. Rathmann, PhD

George B. Rathmann, PhD

George B. Rathmann, PhD, graduated from Northwestern University and received his PhD in physical chemistry from Princeton University. He was the first CEO and co-founder of Amgen, and there developed and supported scientific teams whose work has produced signal improvements in care for kidney patients and for patients undergoing chemotherapy.

Dr. Rathmann was widely regarded as a far-sighted entrepreneur and is considered one of the fathers of the biotechnology industry. He was known for developing talent at all levels of the organizations he headed.

In 1951, before Dr. Rathmann finished his PhD thesis, he was hired by 3M Company as a research chemist. There he helped develop Scotchgard and worked on the scattering of light by polymers. He left 3M in 1972 to become President of Litton Medical Systems, and in 1975 joined Abbott Laboratories as Vice President of Research and Development. While at Abbott Dr. Rathmann first became interested in recombinant DNA.

Dr. Rathmann realized very early the potential benefits genetic engineering could bring to medical care, and in 1980 co-founded Amgen, starting with four employees. In the early years, Dr. Rathmann and a handful of scientists worked out of makeshift trailers. After many setbacks, Amgen scientists were able to apply recombinant DNA technology to produce erythropoietin in cell culture.

Dr. Rathmann then worked with Kirin Brewery of Japan to apply needed fermentation expertise that made it possible for Amgen scientists to extend their work engineering copies of the erythropoietin protein. He secured essential funds to support this major effort to develop the potential of erythropoietin for treating anemia, and led Amgen through its initial public offering.

In 1989, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Epogen® as a treatment for anemia. Epogen transformed the care of kidney dialysis patients, and Neupogen®—used to treat the lack of white blood cells in cancer chemotherapy—helped countless patients return to their daily routines.

Dr. Rathmann was a passionate scientist who combined a strong business sense with a lifelong dedication to bringing out the best in talented scientists to advance patient care. His ability to move from vision to life-changing treatment advances provides a wonderful example for the recipients of the foundation's fellowship program.