Volume 90 Issue 51 | p. 8 | News of The Week
Issue Date: December 17, 2012

Amgen To Buy DeCode Genetics

Drug Discovery: Leading biotech company bags Icelandic gene hunter
Department: Newscripts
Keywords: genetics, drug discovery, biopharmaceuticals
DeCode Genetics has labs in Reykjavik, Iceland.
Credit: DeCode Genetics
Photo of researcher working in a DeCode Genetics lab.
DeCode Genetics has labs in Reykjavik, Iceland.
Credit: DeCode Genetics

Amgen has agreed to acquire deCode Genetics for $415 million. Based in Reykjavik, Iceland, deCode deciphers the links between genetics and human diseases largely by relying on Iceland’s exceptionally thorough genealogical records and genetic data.

Amgen, the largest independent biotech firm, hopes that deCode’s understanding of disease susceptibility will provide targets for drug discovery. The acquisition “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,” says Amgen CEO Robert A. Bradway.

Although the deal came as somewhat of a surprise to investors, it is “consistent with Amgen’s focus on personalized treatments based on genetic markers, particularly for cancer,” noted Steven Silver, a biotech analyst at Standard & Poor’s, in a report on the deal. “DeCode’s expertise in discovering genetic risk factors in human disease should enhance productivity across Amgen’s drug pipeline.”

DeCode was launched in 1996 and went public in 2000 during the boom era in genome sequencing. Yet the company was never able to turn its research into a successful drug. By 2009, deCode had ceased its clinical development programs and filed for bankruptcy, although the firm continued to work with academic and pharma company partners.

In 2010, deCode emerged as a new private company financed by the venture capital consortium Saga Investments, which includes Polaris Venture Partners and Arch Venture Partners. Focused on human genetics research, deCode now has businesses in diagnostic disease-risk tests, personal genome scans, and contract services around genotyping, DNA sequencing, and data analysis.

Being acquired by Amgen will allow deCode to once again align its prolific genetic research output with in-house drug R&D efforts. “Target discovery, validation, and prioritization efforts can be accelerated,” says founder and CEO Kári Stefánsson.

The companies expect to complete the acquisition by the end of the year.

Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
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