Steve joined Amgen Inc (a recently formed biotech company) in 1983 as a research scientist where he further developed his skill set in molecular and cellular biology and developed an expertise in protein engineering. He was involved in basic research in numerous fields including immunology, endocrinology, neuroscience, metabolic disorders, hematology and oncology. Amgen was the first company to clone the erythropoietin (EPO) gene and market recombinant human erythropoietin(rHuEpo) to treat anemia (low hemoglobin levels) and Steve’s early work focused on development of recombinant organisms that could be used to manufacture rHuEpo. He also developed a deep understanding of the processes around erythropoiesis (red blood cell formation) and the control of oxygen delivery. One research avenue of particular importance was his structure-function studies on EPO and the EPO receptor. This work inspired and led to the invention and development of darbepoetin alfa (Aranesp®), a novel erythropoiesis stimulating agent (ESA) which is a re-engineered analog of rHuEpo with a longer serum half-life. Darbepoetin alfa is marketed and used world-wide for treatment of anemia in patients with chronic kidney disease and chemotherapy induced anemia.
Following the marketing of rHuEpo in the late 1980s it was apparent that there were those who would choose to use it improperly to enhance their aerobic performance in endurance sports. In 2001 which coincided with the successful launch of Aranesp into the USA and Europe, Steve attended a meeting in Lausanne Switzerland hosted by the World Antidoping Agency to discuss and develop rHuEpo and darbepoetin testing procedures and strategies. During the 2002 Winter games, Olympic Lab scientists ran multiple tests on samples and collaborated with Steve to confirm the detection of darbepoetin in several urine samples. He wrote letters to the International Olympic Committee verifying the findings. The three cross-country skiers from whom the samples had been taken were stripped of gold medals and suspended from competing for two years. When the three accused athletes appealed the rulings, He flew to Switzerland to testify in court against them, and all three appeals were denied.
These experiences taught Steve the importance of the fight against doping and he has become an outspoken voice to promote clean sport. He has written articles, spoken at scientific conferences, collaborated with anti-doping authorities, and has supported education programs to discourage inappropriate use of ESAs and other medicines.
He retired from his Scientific Executive Director position at Amgen in 2012 but attends scientific congresses, speaks and publishes papers and has continued to promote anti-doping activities.