Gene pioneer deCODE resurrected

deCODE genetics was the biotech industry’s champion at scientific discovery – contributing more research papers to top journals than any other company – but its commercial model was far from successful. In November it filed for bankruptcy protection.

Today, happily, the core deCODE genetics business is resurrected as a private company, with new funding – including some from the venture capitalists who originally backed it in the 1990s.

The Icelandic company’s press release boasts proudly but correctly: “deCODE operates the most productive human gene discovery engine in the world.”

It has discovered an amazing number of genetic variations that contribute to common human diseases, often in collaboration with academic groups. But deCODE’s drug development and DNA testing business brought in less revenue than expected, and the company lost serious money in the 2008 Lehmann Brothers crash.

deCODE founder Kari Stefansson will remain as executive chairman and president of research, joined on a two-man executive committee by new recruit Earl “Duke” Collier, previously executive vice-president at Genzyme.

The company says it will continue to offer deCODE diagnostics disease risk tests, deCODEme personal genome scans, and contract service offerings including genotyping, sequencing and data analysis. “Going forward, deCODE will concentrate on translating its science into medically and commercially important products and services,” it says.

deCODE was not universally popular but I am delighted that this very distinctive Icelandic enterprise will live on and, I hope, contribute more to human healthcare.

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Clive Cookson, the FT's science editor, picks out the research that everyone should know about, in fields from astronomy to zoology. He also discusses key policy issues, from R&D funding to science education. He'll cover the weird and wonderful, as well as the serious side of science.

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