Genetic Future

i-86603281c50383feb5daf4a41bb6d473-Kari-02.jpgdeCODE CEO Kari Stefansson on the recent award of Time magazine’s “Invention of the Year” to personal genomics competitor 23andMe:

Despite the fact that we launched our test first – so we basically invented this, and also 23andMe is using a substantial number of sequence variants that we discovered. So we feel flattered by the fact that our test was selected as the invention of the year by Time magazine. We are amused by the fact that they decided to ascribe the invention to 23andMe, probably because its founder is associated with the rich and famous.

From an article in Bio-IT World on deCODE’s growing financial woes. Here’s the company’s stock price over the last twelve months:


I genuinely hope that deCODE manages to climb out of this particular financial pit – the loss of this company would put a major dent in the diversity of the personal genomics sector (effectively granting 23andMe a monopoly, at least temporarily) and would also be a blow to human genetics research in general. If you’re unaware of just how much of the recent boom in large-scale human genetics has been due to deCODE, try a PubMed search for “stefansson k”.


  1. #1 Steven Murphy M.D.
    November 7, 2008

    Further proof that Time is racist against Vikings…..

    Seriously though, this is the craziest thing Time has done in a while……


  2. #2 Luis
    November 8, 2008

    Stefansson is absolutely right. It is quite incredible that the company that has the scientific skills to do the stuff, and that ACTUALLY did the stuff, takes second place to people who have not research capabilities… it’s quite injust.

  3. #3 Steve Mount
    November 8, 2008

    Time looks bad whether this is sloppy journalism, or they are actually giving the award not for an invention but for publicity (in the U.S.). I hope that deCODE pulls through. One point in their favor is that the collapse of the Icelandic currency has greatly reduced their operating costs relative to the value of foreign investments.

  4. #4 evan
    November 8, 2008

    I love the idea of deCODE as a company and would also be sad to see them go, but I really hate the way they have responded to this.

    Launching first by one day is so meaningless. Setting up a company like this takes a lot of time, it’s not like 23andme copied their invention in 24 hours.

    I have looked at demo accounts from both places and there is no comparison, 23andme is much better. Perhaps it’s true that deCODEme had been thinking about this idea for longer than the founders of 23andme, but if that’s the case it just makes it even more embarrassing for them that they have been so outdone by their competitors.

    Responding in this way just makes deCODE look worse. Check out their delusional blog post on the award:

    deCODE should spend less time complaining about 23andme, and more time improving their product.

  5. #5 Tony
    November 9, 2008

    Steffanson hit the nail on the head…and a classical Silicon Valley story…a fist full of cash and celebrity associations can get you quite a bit of attention.

  6. #6 dr_steve
    November 9, 2008

    Here is a business plan idea that might have saved decode.

    Find out when Apple is releasing the iphone, release a terrible phone the day before — a potato with decode written on it should do — then tell their investors they invented the iphone. It turns out nobody will be able to tell the difference (hi Luis, hi Tony!), so they can hype the stock price before it all falls apart!

  7. #7 Andrew Yates
    November 10, 2008

    Just curious, is “Steven Murphy, MD” the same as “dr_steve”? What do the IPs say?

  8. #8 Daniel MacArthur
    November 10, 2008

    Different IPs, but dr_steve IS posting from NY.

    Still, I doubt they’re the same person – dr_steve didn’t use a single ellipsis, exclamation mark or random capitalisation. 🙂

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