Genetic Future

I noted yesterday that the annual earnings report of Icelandic biotech giant deCODE Genetics, one of the major players in modern human genetics, suggested that the company is veering steadily towards financial oblivion. 

Today the company had a crucial earnings call – anyone interested in the details of deCODE’s plight, or at least a sanitised corporate version thereof, should check out the webcast. The main messages from the call have been ably dissected by articles from Kevin Davies of Bio-IT World and Mark Henderson at The Times (in which I am delighted to be quoted alongside human genetics luminary Peter Donnelly). 
Throughout the call deCODE CEO Kari Stefansson remained defiantly optimistic about deCODE’s future, describing it as “a company with dramatic potential” and arguing that the signs point to 2009 as being the year for personalised medicine (based on Obama’s presidency, and the fact that the markets are still backing DNA-based diagnostics despite the gloomy overall financial picture). 
However, Stefansson also acknowledged that his business is “currently in a tough spot” – one of the biggest understatements in human genetics since Watson and Crick described the structure of DNA as being “of considerable biological interest“.
Will Stefansson be able to resurrect his company through sheer Viking determination? I hope so, but fear not – and it sounds like we’ll know for sure one way or the other within the next six months.

Comments

  1. #1 Hank Roberts
    April 2, 2009

    Waitaminnit — aren’t they in a position RIGHT NOW to clearly demonstrate that we understand the genetic basis of financial nitwittery?

    Given this company’s work, it’s now possible to see how we need to regulate the financial markets of the world to deny those with a genetic susceptibility to speculation beyond the dreams of avarice.

    It’s obvious what to do — keep the finance industry in the hands of those who are genetically protected against the extremes of financial madness and risk blindness.

    Iceland was the PERFECT demonstration site for this, given how well their genetics are characterized and how exceedingly clear their financial condition is right now.

    Don’t let this company go broke. It’s important.

    Do I have to spell this out for people?
    http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200812/map-iceland

    And the results are in, and clear:
    http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2009/04/iceland200904?currentPage=all
    ________excerpt_follows_________

    “…It’s not hard to see why the Independence Party and its prime minister fail to appeal to Icelandic women: they are the guy driving his family around in search of some familiar landmark and refusing, over his wife’s complaints, to stop and ask directions.

    Enter investment banking.

    For the fifth time in as many days I note a slight tension at any table where Icelandic men and Icelandic women are both present. The male exhibits the global male tendency not to talk to the females—or, rather, not to include them in the conversation—unless there is some obvious sexual motive. But that’s not the problem, exactly. Watching Icelandic men and women together is like watching toddlers. They don’t play together but in parallel; they overlap even less organically than men and women in other developed countries, which is really saying something. … The Independence Party is mostly male; the Social Democrats, mostly female. … Everyone knows everyone else, but when I ask Icelanders for leads, the men always refer me to other men, and the women to other women. …
    Back in 2001, as the Internet boom turned into a bust, M.I.T.’s Quarterly Journal of Economics published an intriguing paper called “Boys Will Be Boys: Gender, Overconfidence, and Common Stock Investment.” The authors, Brad Barber and Terrance Odean, gained access to the trading activity in over 35,000 households, and used it to compare the habits of men and women. What they found, in a nutshell, is that men not only trade more often than women but do so from a false faith in their own financial judgment. Single men traded less sensibly than married men, and married men traded less sensibly than single women: the less the female presence, the less rational the approach to trading in the markets.

    One of the distinctive traits about Iceland’s disaster, and Wall Street’s, is how little women had to do with it….”

    ——-end-excerpt——-

    Did you read this far?

    There it is, clear, and obvious, in a country where we really can say genetics is clearly implicated in financial overreaching.

    It’s the Y chromosome that has to be kept out of banking.
    We know this now.

  2. #2 Hank Roberts
    April 2, 2009

    And don’t think this is obvious even to those most clearly exemplifying an understanding at some unconscious level:

    http://www.yaledailynews.com/articles/view/28375

    _______excerpt_follows______

    “Following the collapse, the Icelandic government tapped Yale economics lecturer Sigridur Benediktsdottir GRD ’05 to be a part of its special Investigation Commission.

    Benediktsdottir, who currently teaches “Intro Macroeconomic Analysis” and “Financial Markets,” will work with the commission this summer to analyze the causes and consequences of the banking crisis. She sat down with the News on Friday to discuss her upcoming work with the commission and her insight into Iceland’s economic meltdown.

    Q: How were you contacted about this position?

    A: Basically the Nancy Pelosi of Iceland just called me and asked me to be a part of this effort. I told them no because I would be teaching at the time that they mentioned. Then they called me again on Dec. 30 and said that they would still like me to work with them, but this time in the summer.

    Q: Why do you think you were selected for this commission? What about your past work relates to the work you will do in the summer?

    A: I am a financial economist and I worked at the Federal Reserve Board in D.C. for two years in the financial market section. So most of the work I have done to date will help me in the work this summer. …”

    — end excerpt —–
    Uh, yep, right. Qualified in so many ways. One of which is obvious, if you have the genetics background and have read the research.

  3. #3 JF
    April 2, 2009

    I was a contractor for the previous company and later deCode in Woodridge, IL for 19 years. I provided a superior service and at a lower price than most contractors are able. My work was (is) accurate and timely. The Quality Assurance manager abruptly fired our company for nonsensical and bureaucratic reasons. The company accepted her reasoning without any input on my part. Thus I can only conclude the company is not well managed at all. It is no surprise to me what has happened.