The discovery points the way to new predictive diagnostic markers and drug targets for RA

Reykjavik, ICELAND and Basel, SWITZERLAND, November 29, 2001 — deCODE genetics (Nasdaq/Nasdaq Europe:DCGN) and Roche today announced that deCODE scientists have mapped the first gene with genome-wide significant linkage to rheumatoid arthritis outside the MHC region. The companies will use the discovery as the basis for further research and development in both diagnostics and therapeutics. deCODE receives milestone payments for this discovery under the companies’ 1998 gene and drug development alliance.

deCODE and Roche Diagnostics will today host a media roundtable on their alliance entitled “Molecular Diagnostics: a Key to Personalized Healthcare.” A video and audio recording of the roundtable will be made available via deCODE and Roche’s websites later in the day.

deCODE’s findings, combined with existing knowledge on the links between variations in the MHC and rheumatoid arthritis (RA), provide genetic markers that predict an increased risk of RA. This marks a large step towards the development of molecular diagnostic tools that will improve the diagnosis of RA, as well as help recognize predisposition to the disease and enable the development of novel prevention regimes. Early recognition of disease will allow timely and more aggressive treatment that may minimize serious joint damage. deCODE and Roche believe that such diagnostic tools will play a key role in developing more targeted medicines. The companies will also use this information in their ongoing research to identify targets for the development of new therapeutic products.

“We believe that this breakthrough in the genetics of RA is an encouraging step towards the development of new methods for diagnosing, treating, and preventing RA,” said Kari Stefansson, CEO of deCODE genetics. “We are continuing our research to identify additional diagnostic markers and drug targets, and we are pleased that in Roche we have a partner with the expertise and commitment to help turn these discoveries into products that can improve the quality of life of RA patients.”

“As the leader in molecular diagnostic testing, Roche Diagnostics has a long-standing interest and expertise in RA and has done a significant amount of work on the disease” commented Heino von Prondzynski, Head of Roche Diagnostics. “In the course of our research with other collaborators we have shown an association of HLA subtype with disease predisposition, and there is also an association between a patient’s HLA subtype and the severity of the disease. We believe that deCODE’s new discoveries and our own work can be coupled to make effective panels of tests for disease predisposition and therapy choices.”

deCODE’s study was conducted in two stages. First, with the collaboration of physicians from the National University Hospital in Reykjavik, more than 2500 volunteer patients and their relatives from more than 100 families across Iceland were screened for certain common variations in the MHC that are known to be associated with an increased risk of developing RA. Data from a genome-wide scan of the members of this group were then analyzed and led to the identification of a well-defined genetic locus that is independent of the MHC and is associated with additional risk of RA. As research to identify and characterize the underlying gene and its disease-associated variants advances, deCODE scientists hope to pinpoint new markers that can add additional predictive power to these encouraging results.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic, often debilitating autoimmune condition that affects the joints. An estimated 1.0% of people in the industrialized world are affected by RA, with the incidence in women twice that of men. Currently, RA is primarily diagnosed on the basis of the clinical presentation, along with the presence of inflammatory serum markers such as rheumatoid factor, which may or may not be present.

deCODE genetics, based in Reykjavik, Iceland, is using population genomics to create a new paradigm for healthcare. With its uniquely comprehensive population data deCODE is turning research on the genetic causes of common diseases into a growing range of products and services — in gene discovery, pharmaceuticals, DNA-based diagnostics, pharmacogenomics, in silico discovery tools, bioinformatics and medical decision support systems. deCODE is delivering on the promise of the new genetics.SM Visit us on the Web at

Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, Roche ( is one of the world’s leading research-oriented healthcare groups in the fields of pharmaceuticals, diagnostics and vitamins. Roche’s products and services address prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases, thus enhancing well-being and quality of life. Roche has approximately 64,000 employees and sells its products in over 170 countries. Research at Roche focuses on significant unmet medical needs in the management of diseases of the central nervous system and genitourinary tract, metabolic disorders, inflammation, bone diseases, cancer, vascular diseases and virology. Roche’s Diagnostics Division supplies a wide array of innovative testing products and services to researchers, physicians, patients, hospitals and laboratories worldwide.

Any statements contained in this press release that relate to future plans, events or performance are forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties including, but not limited to, those relating to technology and product development, market acceptance, government regulation and regulatory approval processes, intellectual property rights and litigation, dependence on strategic partners, ability to obtain financing, competitive products and other risks identified in deCODE’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Actual results, events or performance may differ materially. deCODE undertakes no obligation to publicly release any revisions to these forward-looking statements resulting from events or circumstances after the date hereof.