DTC Genetic Testing Market Further Consolidates for the Sake of Data

In a surprising move, biotech giant Amgen (Thousand Oaks, Calif.) announced the acquisition of deCODE Genetics (Reykjavik, Iceland) on Dec. 10, further consolidating the direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic testing market. The sale of deCODE (as well of Navigenics this past summer) underscores the importance placed on access to genetic data in the drive toward personalized medicine. As was the case with Navigenics, deCODE’s DTC testing will halt.Amgen paid $415 million in an all-cash deal for deCODE in the hope that the company’s unique data will speed drug discovery, although tangible benefits from the acquisition are likely years away. Since its inception, more than 140,000 volunteers provided medical and DNA information to deCODE.

“[deCODE’s] capability will enhance our efforts to identify and validate human disease targets,” said Amgen’s CEO Robert Bradway in a statement. “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.”

Sean Harper, M.D., Amgen’s executive vice president for research and development, told the New York Times that two of the most promising drugs in Amgen’s pipeline—one for osteoporosis and one for high cholesterol—were identified from human genetic studies and that the company had previously dropped some targets based on published findings from deCODE.

“Clearly Amgen wanted deCODE for more than its patents, genetic testing business, or drug development projects—although there is plenty of value there,” wrote Terry McGuire, managing general partner of Polaris Venture Partners, in his blog. The venture capital firm was an investor in deCODE. “Amgen bought deCODE for its powerhouse research engine—including its talented genomics scientists, tools, and data.”

deCODE has had a turbulent run since its 1996 inception. From reporting a market capitalization of $1.2 billion in 2000 the company plummeted into bankruptcy in 2009 but re-emerged as a populational genetics research-oriented company. While publishing more than 400 papers on discoveries linking genetic variants to common conditions like Alzheimer’s and autism, deCODE remained unable to financially capitalize on those discoveries with therapeutic or diagnostic products.

deCODE’s founder Kari Stefansson reportedly is staying on board to run deCODE and plans to continue publishing genetic findings. The transaction does not require regulatory approval, Amgen says, and is expected to close before the end of 2012.

Associated Data



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