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Amgen Purchases Diagnostics Developer deCODE Genetics

DNA fragment (Wikimedia Commons)

(Wikimedia Commons)

Amgen, a biotechnology company in Thousand Oaks, California, acquired deCODE Genetics, a developer of genetic disease risk assessment tests in Reykjavik, Iceland in an all-cash transaction valued at $415 million. Amgen says the transaction does not require regulatory approval and is expected to close before the end of 2012.

deCODE Genetics offers genetic scans for individuals analyzing risk factors for 48 disease and conditions, and risk assessments for specific disorders including type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, prostate cancer, glaucoma, and heart disease. The deCODE technology correlates two sets of data: variations in the sequence of human genomes, and variations in phenotypes or conditions, such as a disease or physical trait.

Since its founding 1996, deCODE says it collected genome and phenotype data from 140,000 volunteers in Iceland, more than half the country’s adult population. The company also amassed a geneological database for the entire country going back 1,000 years to Iceland’s founding as an independent nation. These extensive data sets, combined with the high quality of universal health care in Iceland, says deCODE, makes it possible to study most common diseases on a large scale, minimizing the selection bias that can occur in larger and more diverse populations.

deCODE applies these databases to genetic tests of disease susceptibility it developed that identifies single-nucleotide polymorphisms or SNPs, the variations in genomic sequences that indicate a higher risk of a particular disease. The company says its statistical and informatics algorithms validate the tests against its databases of genomes, phenotypes, and geneologies. deCODE says it now has detailed genetic and medical data on some 500,000 individuals worldwide.

Amgen is a pioneer in biotechnology, founded in 1980, operating both in discovery and clinical-stage drug development, particularly for biologics — therapies derived from living organisms, such as antibodies, often as a result of genetic engineering. Its pipeline includes treatments based on antibodies, immunotherapies for cancer, small-molecule drugs, and proteins.

Robert Bradway, Amgen’s CEO says deCODE’s genetics capabilities “will enhance our efforts to identify and validate human disease targets. 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.”

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