Samantha Palmer, executive director and head of Amgen Ventures, is one of the 100 leading corporate venturing professionals in our 2024 Powerlist.

GCV Powerlist 2024: Samantha Palmer

What is real and what is hype? This is one of the key questions Samantha Palmer attempts to answer every day in her role as executive director of Amgen Ventures, the corporate venture arm of biopharmaceutical company Amgen.

Amgen Ventures has had a busy year of investments, including backing oncology drug developer Enlaza Therapeutics’ $100m series A funding round, and Seismic Therapeutics’ $121m series B, a company that applies machine learning to biologics drug discovery for immunology diseases.

The team also saw portfolio exits. Inversago Pharma, which developed drugs to tackle metabolic and fibrotic diseases, was acquired by Novo Nordisk in August of last year. Amgen Ventures contributed to the startup’s series C round in 2022. Caraway Therapeutics, which developed therapies for neurodegenerative and rare diseases, was acquired by MSD in 2023, with Amgen Ventures’ initial investment in 2018. For Palmer, it is an example of how resilient the biotechnology space has been, despite the difficult market conditions post-pandemic.

“During the pandemic, we needed our industry to quickly help humanity. Post-covid, I have been surprised at how well we adapted despite a tough financial environment. It is proof that the right innovations still drive value for patients, and how dynamic the biotech ecosystem is,” Palmer says.

The pandemic changed the way the world works, and in the biotechnology sector there was a permanent change in terms of a willingness to use technology to become more efficient.

“We are figuring out how we can use technology to deliver faster, better, cheaper and higher quality. From the small company stage to the large company stage, even in regulatory bodies, there is more openness to technology,” she says.

“Amgen Ventures is exploring how technologies such as quantum computing can be used to solve the complex questions that we ask every day. We are trying to figure out how to create value at that cusp of innovation”

Palmer says identifying investment opportunities that will deliver value can be challenging. “Within biotherapeutics, the currency is novel science, with validated and differentiated human data, led by strong, capable management teams,” she says. Over the past year alone, the Amgen Ventures team has looked at nearly 1000 opportunities. The therapeutic approaches ideally need to align with Amgen’s core therapeutic areas, which are oncology, inflammation and general medicine, which includes cardiovascular, metabolic disease, bone health and nephrology. With Amgen’s acquisition of Horizon Therapeutics, the fourth core therapeutic area is rare disease.

Amgen Ventures also takes an interest in technologies that improve the drug discovery and development process – that can include human data analytics and quantum computing. Amgen Ventures invested in Utah-based Culmination Bio, a real-world data and clinical insights generation company and at the beginning of this year it invested in Colorado-based quantum computing company Quantiniuum.

“The healthcare industry sits on massive data sets and we are exploring how technologies such as quantum computing can be used to solve the complex questions that we ask every day, whether it is on the early discovery research side, or along the clinical development and commercialisation process. Amgen Ventures is trying to figure out how to create value at that cusp of innovation,” says Palmer.

Amgen Ventures has invested more than a billion dollars throughout the 20-year lifespan of the fund. Palmer joined Amgen in 2015, and held several positions during her time, including director of business development, before becoming executive director in March 2022.

She has a degree in biochemistry from Ithaca College, a PhD in immunology and microbial pathogenesis from Cornell and completed her MBA at Wharton. Before joining Amgen, she spent time at a seed- stage company. Being the first employee gave her valuable first-hand experience in company building. “I love being put in the middle of ambiguity” she says.

Her time in business development gave her a great understanding of the opportunities in the biopharma space. Her journey up until now has meant she has been heavily involved in understanding the drug development process, conducting due diligence of opportunities, spanning drug discovery to marketed assets.

Powerlist cover

The Global Corporate Venturing Powerlist represents the 100
individuals spearheading the future of the corporate venturing industry.

These individuals excel in terms of their venturing approach and structure, number and quality of portfolio companies and in their contributions to the corporate venturing profession.

See the full 2024 Powerlist here.