A reader pointed me to this press release on the dire financial state of Icelandic biotech deCODE Genetics.
The slow financial train-wreck that is deCODE
has been sliding off the rails for years (see stock price chart below), but things look set to reach their final resolution one way or another within the next few months: the company currently has $3.8 million in cash reserves, but is bleeding out $12 million per quarter, and “believes it has sufficient resources to fund operations only into the latter half of the third quarter”.
Where to from here? In the press release, deCODE CEO Kari Stefansson makes it sound as though the major focus will be on deCODE’s consumer genomics arm, deCODEme
, and other ventures into genome-based diagnostics and risk prediction:
As the focus of our healthcare system shifts toward prevention, measuring and controlling individual risk of disease will become a central part of everyday medicine. DNA-based risk assessment tests and personal genome scans such as those we have developed offer a novel and personalized means of more accurately gauging risk. The goal of our strategic review is to recast deCODE as a diagnostics company positioned to lead in this growing new market. Over the past quarter we have made our gene discovery engine more efficient, and shown that it continues to be second to none in delivering the content required to create effective genetic risk tests for common diseases.
It’s hard to believe that the still-embryonic personal genomics market will be able to provide the cash-flow required to turn this company around, especially given that the consumer genome scan field is now effectively dominated by 23andMe
Realistically, deCODE needs a buyer; but in the current economic climate that’s hard for anyone, and if you add on top of that the regulatory complexity of purchasing a company that owns the health and genetic data of a sizeable fraction of the population of Iceland, you’ve got real problems.
Still, I hope a solution can be found, and quickly – as I’ve said before, the loss of deCODE would be a genuine and substantial blow to the field of complex trait genetics.