Amgen plans to acquire Iceland-based deCODE Genetics for $415 million cash, the companies said today, in a deal that raises the biotech pioneer’s presence in personalized medicine. The deal is expected to close by year’s end.
“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," Robert A. Bradway, Amgen’s president and CEO, said in a statement.
Established in 1996, deCODE has used its expertise and access to Iceland’s genetically homogeneous population to discover genetic risk factors for dozens of diseases ranging from cardiovascular disease to cancer.
By 2009, nine years after going public, deCODE entered bankruptcy protection from creditors. At the time, the company had never finished a year with a profit, instead piling up more than $300 million in debt as Iceland, followed by the U.S. and many Western nations, plunged into financial crisis. The company re-emerged as a privately-held concern after Arch Venture Partners and Polaris Genetics joined to acquire the company and its assets for a reported $14 million.
The new deCODE has proven capable of striking alliances with life-sci corporate giants: In October 2011, deCODE and Pfizer formed an 18-month collaboration to discover sequence variants associated with specific clinical phenotypes related to systemic lupus erythematosis.
Most recently last month, deCODE joined Illumina, researchers from the National Hospital of Iceland, and investigator collaborators from the U.S., the Netherlands, and Germany in identifying the second gene variant found to confer high risk of acquiring the late-onset Alzheimer’s disease, in results published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The variant was also found to predict poorer cognitive function in older individuals without Alzheimer’s.
Past collaborations by deCODE, Illumina, and academic colleagues yielded discoveries that included a genetic risk factor for skin, prostate, and brain cancers; mutations conferring a high risk of ovarian cancer; and two rare variants affecting the risk of gout and serum uric acid levels.