Skip to Content

Biotech Amgen to Buy Genetics Pioneer DeCode

Amgen places a $415 million bet that human genetics will boost drug discovery.
December 10, 2012

DeCode genetics, the Reykjavik-based human genetics company founded by Kari Stefansson, will soon have an American owner. Amgen, a biotech drug developer based near Los Angeles, California, announced today that it will buy DeCode for $415 million. Amgen says the purchase will enhance the company’s ability to identify successful drug targets.

Over the past 16 years, DeCode has made dozens of human genetics discoveries that have linked genetic variants to risks of heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes (see “Gene Variant Linked to Heart Disease” and “A Genetic Test for Diabetes Risk”).

One of the reasons for DeCode’s research success is all the medical records and genetic information it has collected from some 140,000 willing Icelander participants. However, that genetic prowess wasn’t enough to create a profitable biotechnology company—DeCode declared bankruptcy in 2009 (see “DeCode is Bankrupt; So Is The Idea of “Pure” Genomics”), but the company was rescued by private investors in 2010.  

Access to that rich dataset, and to the expertise at DeCode (which will still be run by Stefansson, according to Forbes), is likely to shape Amgen’s drug pipeline. Given the many and diverse discoveries made by DeCode, it’s hard to say which diseases will be Amgen’s first target, but the hope is clearly that Amgen will develop drugs with a better chance of success than is currently seen in the industry (somewhere around 10 percent). And the hope is that genetics will make a difference. As Sean Harper, head of R&D at Amgen told Forbes:

“Having that information that those targets are relevant in human disease as opposed to not having it and relying on animal models is a huge thing for us given that we can only explore a small number of drug targets in any given time.”

Keep Reading

Most Popular

images created by Google Imagen
images created by Google Imagen

The dark secret behind those cute AI-generated animal images

Google Brain has revealed its own image-making AI, called Imagen. But don't expect to see anything that isn't wholesome.

AGI is just chatter for now concept
AGI is just chatter for now concept

The hype around DeepMind’s new AI model misses what’s actually cool about it

Some worry that the chatter about these tools is doing the whole field a disservice.

Hoan Ton-That, CEO of Clearview AI
Hoan Ton-That, CEO of Clearview AI

The walls are closing in on Clearview AI

The controversial face recognition company was just fined $10 million for scraping UK faces from the web. That might not be the end of it.

spaceman on a horse generated by DALL-E
spaceman on a horse generated by DALL-E

This horse-riding astronaut is a milestone in AI’s journey to make sense of the world

OpenAI’s latest picture-making AI is amazing—but raises questions about what we mean by intelligence.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.