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Amgen to Acquire Gene-Hunting Firm

By BiotechDaily International staff writers
Posted on 07 Jan 2013
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Biotechnology giant Amgen (Thousand Oaks, CA, USA) is set to acquire deCODE Genetics (Reykjavik, Iceland), a global leader in analyzing and understanding the human genome.

The acquisition is intended to bolster Amgen’s drug discovery efforts by developing drugs based on human genetic discoveries, which have had a better track record than drugs developed by animal models that often do not work. deCODE Genetics, founded in 1996, has discovered genetic risk factors for dozens of diseases, ranging from cardiovascular disease to schizophrenia, cancer, and numerous other diseases. In 2012 alone, the company published studies on a rare mutation that protects people from getting Alzheimer’s disease and a study suggesting that older men are more likely to father children with autism.

In January 2010 most of deCODE genetics assets were purchased by Saga Investments (Akureyri, Iceland) an investment company whose owners include Polaris Venture Partners and ARCH Venture Partners, with the intention of continuing most services and retaining the management team. The all-cash transaction values deCODE Genetics at USD 415 million (subject to customary closing adjustments), and does not require regulatory approval. The acquisition is expected to close before the end of 2012.

“deCODE Genetics has built a world-class capability in the study of the genetics of human disease; this capability will enhance our efforts to identify and validate human disease targets,” said Robert A. Bradway, president and CEO at Amgen. “This fits perfectly with our objective to pursue rapid development of relevant molecules that reach the right disease targets while avoiding investments in programs based on less well-validated targets.”

“One of the ways to truly realize the full value of human genetics, is to make our research synergistic with drug development efforts where target discovery, validation, and prioritization efforts can be accelerated,” said Kari Stefansson, MD, founder and CEO of deCODE Genetics. “We believe Amgen's focus and ability to incorporate our genetic research into their research and development efforts will translate our discoveries into meaningful therapies for patients.”

In the late 1990s deCODE collected medical records and genealogical and genetic data of the entire population of Iceland (which numbered 270,000 at the time), creating the Icelandic Health Sector Database (HSD). The HSD became very controversial, and prompted both national and international criticism for its approach to the concepts of privacy and consent. A legal judgment from the Icelandic Supreme Court in November 2003 effectively killed off the HSD project.

Related Links:
deCODE Genetics

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