Biogen Company History Timeline


Founded in 1978 by a small group of visionary scientists, Biogen helped pioneer the biotechnology industry.

Biogen is considered one of the pioneers of the biotechnology industry. It got its start in 1978 when Walter H. Gilbert, a Nobel prize-winning biologist who was teaching at Harvard at the time, decided to try developing his research into marketable products.


By 1984, in fact, Biogen had racked up a stunning $100 million in losses and was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.


As Idec began its journey in 1985, the company would have to find a way to satisfy both its scientific and business needs.

1985: James L. Vincent is hired as CEO and launches a radical restructuring.


Idec's chief executive officer, William Rastetter, joined the company in 1986, roughly a decade after earning his doctorate in chemistry from Harvard University.


By 1989 Biogen had regained control of 90 percent of all of its original patents.

Sales reached $28.5 million in 1989, and the company posted its first-ever profit--a $3.2 million surplus.


In 1991, in a bid to alleviate some of the financial pressure it was experiencing, the company completed an initial public offering of stock, debuting on the NASDAQ. The proceeds from the stock offering provided some help, enabling the company to progress toward its first major hurdle.

1991: Idec completes its initial public offering of stock.

By 1991 the company was selling through licensees several different drugs that were generating global sales of about $600 million annually: Intron A Alpha Interferon, Hepatitis B vaccine, Hepatitis B diagnostics, and Gamma Interferon (used to treat renal cell carcinoma).


Biogen benefited in 1992 from heady gains in sales of several of its drugs, particularly alpha interferon.


1993: Clinical studies begin on Rituxan and Zevalin.


In 1994, the company collected $7.4 million in revenue and posted a loss of $18 million.

In the fall of 1994, Biogen announced that it was discontinuing its efforts to bring Hirulog to market because of disappointing test results.


The two companies signed a collaboration agreement in March 1995 that provided the funding for the further development of IDEC-C2B8, a drug that would become known as Rituxan.

A successful launch was jeopardized, however, by a lawsuit filed by Schering AG, which had begun selling its beta interferon drug in the United States in 1995 under the name Betaseron.

1995: FDA approves Avonex for the treatment of relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis.


In May 1996, in a key event in the company's history, Biogen announced that the FDA had unanimously approved Biogen's Avonex interferon beta-1a drug for treating relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis.


FDA Approval of Rituxan in 1997

In early 1997 Tobin was promoted to president and CEO, with Vincent remaining chairman.

1997: European marketing of Avonex begins.


Further, the embrace of Rituxan by the medical community enabled the company to record its first annual profit in 1998, beginning what became a string of profitable years for Idec.


The company was investigating other potential uses of its blockbuster Avonex drug, the sales of which reached $621 million in 1999 in part because of geographic market expansion.

The company suffered a setback in late 1999 when it halted trials of Antova, an immune system regulator, after some patients participating in the trials developed blood clots.


In June 2000 Mullen was promoted to president and CEO, with Vincent continuing as chairman.

In early 2000 Biogen announced that Avonex had proven effective in delaying the development of multiple sclerosis in people showing early signs of the disease.


Zevalin, a therapeutic designed to treat B-cell non-Hodgkin's cancer as well, was a radioimmunotherapy product, one that, as Business Week noted in its October 29, 2001 issue, added "a second line of defense" to Rituxan.


The FDA, which rarely ruled against the recommendation of its advisory committee, approved Zevalin in February 2002, making it the first radioimmunotherapy to enter the market.

In the fall of 2002, Rastetter met with Jim Mullen, the chief executive officer of another biotechnology firm, Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Biogen, Inc.

In 2002, the drug generated $1.47 billion in sales, but Idec, because of its agreement with Genentech, collected only $370 million of the total.


Biogen Idec was founded on November 12, 2003 and is headquartered in Weston, MA.“

With Avonex's orphan drug status set to expire in 2003, Biogen needed to bring additional products to market.


2004: The company moves into a new, $400 million complex in Oceanside, California.


In May 2006, the company announced it would acquire cancer specialist, Conforma Therapeutics for $250 million.


In 2007, the company reached a licensing agreement with Neurimmune, a spin-off from the University of Zurich, for the Alzheimer's disease drug Aducanumab developed by this Swiss company.


The FDA approves natalizumab, a monotherapy for the treatment of patients with relapsing forms of MS. FDA later approves natalizumab (2008) for the treatment of moderate-to-severe Crohn’s disease in patients who have failed or cannot tolerate available therapies.

In 2008, two new brain infection cases from Tysabri users surfaced in Europe that raised international concern about Tysabri and its effects with the progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML) brain condition.


In 2011, Biogen announced that its drug Fampyra received conditional marketing approval.


On December 10, 2012, Biogen announced its global collaboration agreement with Isis Pharmaceuticals to develop and research antisense drugs to treat neurological and neuromuscular diseases.


In February 2013, Bloomberg broke the news that Biogen was planning to pay Elan $3.25 billion for the full rights to Tysabri, used to treat multiple sclerosis.


In December 2014, Biogen announced that its Aducanumab drug for Alzheimer’s treatment is preparing to go through a late-stage trial of its experimental Alzheimer's disease treatment after the medication dramatically improved cognition and reduced brain plaque levels in early-stage study.


In July 2015, Biogen initiates two late-stage studies called ENGAGE and EMERGE, which will assess Aducanumab in adults with early Alzheimer's disease.

In October 2015, the company announced that it would lay off 11% of its workforce, effective immediately.


In 2016, Biogen’s Aducanumab decreases amoyloid-beta in the brains of people with early-stage Alzheimer's disease, according to a report published in Nature on August 31, 2016.

In 2016, Biogen developed the only treatment Spinraza (nusersin) for Spinal Muscular Atrophy.


2017 and continues to serve as Biogen’s CEO and board member today.

Nusinersen, the first treatment for spinal muscular atrophy, is approved in the United States It is approved in the European Union in 2017.

In 2017, Biogen announced that its drug Fampyra converted from conditional marketing authorization to standard marketing approval.

The company would trade on the NASDAQ exchange under the ticker symbol BIVV and would look to be spun off in early 2017.


Bioverativ was acquired by Sanofi in 2018.


On March 21, 2019, Biogen announced that the Phase 3 clinical trials of Aducanumab were halted.

In March 2019, Biogen announced it would acquire Nightstar Therapeutics for $25.50 per share ($800 million in total). Nightstar focus on adeno-associated virus based gene-therapies for inherited retinal disorders.


On July 8, 2020, Biogen and Eisai announced that both companies had together successfully submitted for Aducanumab’s FDA regulatory and marketing approval.

In September 2020, Biogen Inc. made a $10 million deposit in OneUnited Bank to provide more capital to fund home loans and commercial development in Black communities.


On June 7, 2021, the U.S regulators approved Biogen’s aducanumab drug to treat Alzheimer, sold as Aduhelm.

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Phillip Sharp,Charles Weissmann,Heinz Schaller,Kenneth Murray,Walter Gilbert,Bernard Mach,Jeff Behrens
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Biogen History FAQs

How Old Is Biogen?

Biogen is 45 years old.

Who Is The Founder Of Biogen?

Phillip Sharp, Charles Weissmann, Heinz Schaller, Kenneth Murray, Walter Gilbert, Bernard Mach and Jeff Behrens founded Biogen.

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Biogen may also be known as or be related to Biogen, Biogen Idec, Biogen Idec Inc. (2003–2015), Biogen Inc, Biogen Inc. and Biogen, Inc.