Reykjavik, ICELAND and Basel, SWITZERLAND, September 11, 2001 —
deCODE genetics (Nasdaq/Nasdaq Europe: DCGN) and Roche today announced that deCODE scientists have mapped genes contributing to two of the biggest public health challenges in the developed world: obesity and clinical anxiety. These are the first loci of genome-wide significance ever identified in either of these highly complex disorders using population-wide linkage analysis. The companies plan to build on these pioneering discoveries to develop novel and effective drugs that can alleviate and possibly prevent the serious personal and societal toll exacted by these conditions. With these announcements, deCODE has achieved eleven milestones under the two companies’ gene and drug discovery alliance. deCODE receives milestone payments for these achievements.
Approximately one-quarter of the total U.S. and European adult population is overweight, as are a rapidly increasing number of children. In addition to inherited predisposition, unbalanced diet and insufficient exercise play important roles in this complex disorder. Obesity is a leading risk factor for a wide range of cardiovascular and other serious diseases. Yet, while obesity and its related health problems account for some 10% of healthcare spending in the United States alone, little is known about the genetic aspects of obesity.
deCODE’s researchers have now succeeded in mapping a gene, whose variant forms contribute to obesity, to a narrow chromosomal region. This was accomplished by analyzing genotypic data from more than 11,000 adult volunteers — representing a significant proportion of the population suffering from severe obesity. Using deCODE’s proprietary analysis tool for complex traits, the deCODE Clinical Genome Miner™, the researchers were able to correlate a wide range of clinical, behavioral, and genotypic data, and gained important new insights into the heritability of different aspects of obesity, as well as into the complex interplay between obesity and diabetes, stroke, heart disease, and hyperlipidemia. Thus, deCODE researchers have also located a gene variant that appears to protect obese individuals from type-2 diabetes, an otherwise feared complication. It may provide an exciting additional target for further gene and drug discovery.
Anxiety disorders, — which unlike everyday worries cause patients to experience irrational and frequently debilitating fear — are the most common forms of mental illness in industrialized countries. They encompass a constellation of conditions, including panic disorder, phobic disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and general anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders also exhibit diverse and complex interactions between environmental and genetic factors and often accompany other mental illnesses such as depression.
Leveraging deCODE’s ability to conduct genome-wide linkage studies using large extended families from across the population, the company’s scientists were able to approach anxiety as a broadly defined disorder that encompasses all of these complexities. Following a survey of more than 10,000 randomly-selected individuals conducted by collaborating physicians, some 500 respondents who had reported symptoms of anxiety agreed to be clinically examined and genotyped. By focusing on extended families with at least one individual suffering from panic disorder — a very serious anxiety disorder characterized by bouts of often immobilizing fear — the deCODE team mapped a gene strongly linked to all forms of clinical anxiety. This finding provides new insights into the role of the genetic and environmental components of anxiety, and will help pave the way for new therapeutics that target some of the actual roots of the illness.
“Our discoveries in obesity and anxiety demonstrate the power of our population approach and datamining tools for discovering new knowledge about the genetic causes of even the most complex conditions,” said Kari Stefansson, CEO of deCODE genetics. “Not only have we been able to map genes linked to these disorders, we have also gained new insight into the nature of many associated conditions, information that will be of great value as we and Roche progress towards the development of new and more focused therapeutics and diagnostics.”
“deCODE’s success in localizing disease-contributing genetic factors even in such complex disorders as anxiety and obesity marks once more achievements that we believe could not easily be obtained by anyone else,” notes Jonathan Knowles, Head of Global Research at Roche. “We look forward to distilling new approaches to the treatment of these important medical problems from the knowledge gained by this work.”
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 www.decode.com.
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 innovative products and services address needs for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease, thus enhancing people’s well-being and quality of life. Roche has approximately 65,000 employees and sells its products in over 170 countries. Research at Roche is focusing on diseases with high unmet medical need in the areas of the central nervous system, genitourinary diseases, metabolic diseases, inflammation and bone diseases, oncology and vascular diseases as well as viral diseases.
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.