Discoveries will be used to develop novel diagnostic tools and therapies for asthma and allergies, and to optimize patient benefit from existing drugs
Reykjavik, ICELAND, July 17, 2002 — deCODE genetics (Nasdaq/Nasdaq Europe:DCGN) today announced that its scientists have mapped the first gene ever shown to have genome-wide significant linkage to asthma. A paper describing the discovery, entitled “A major susceptibility gene for asthma maps to chromosome 14q24,” has been published in the online edition of the American Journal of Human Genetics at www.ajhg.org.
deCODE scientists have also located two additional genes with strong linkage to respiratory allergies, as measured by heightened immunoglobulin E (IgE) levels. High IgE levels are a key clinical measure of an aggravated immune sensitivity to certain particles in the environment — the basis of atopy (allergies) and an important predisposing factor to the development of asthma. deCODE, together with its pharmacogenomics subsidiary Encode, has also developed an expression-based assay that can accurately predict the responsiveness of asthmatics to glucocorticoid treatment.
These discoveries are part of deCODE’s in-house research programs. The company intends to use them to develop diagnostic and therapeutic products that target the causes of asthma and allergies. deCODE plans to use its pharmacogenomic work to develop and market a test that can be used to target the prescription of glucocorticoids to those patients for whom these compounds provide the most effective relief with the least possible side-effects.
“Asthma and allergies are complex conditions, and it is a gratifying validation of our population approach to gain a foothold into the genetic factors that lie behind them,” said Kari Stefansson, CEO of deCODE. “By understanding these genetic factors, we may be able to move beyond current therapeutic strategies – which address mainly signs and symptoms – to develop more effective drugs aimed at the fundamental cause of disease. In the meantime, we are working to develop pharmacogenomic tests that can help to optimize the benefit to patients of currently available treatments.”
deCODE successfully mapped the asthma gene through a genome-wide linkage analysis using approximately 1000 microsatellite markers and involving 175 families across Iceland. Nearly 600 patients and 550 unaffected relatives volunteered to be genotyped for the study, making it one of the largest linkage studies ever conducted. Approximately 600 patients and relatives participated in the study on respiratory allergies. deCODE is continuing its research on both phenotypes to identify and analyze the roles of these genes, with the aim of finding novel diagnostic markers as well as drug targets that can be used to combat asthma and allergies by going to the underlying causes of both conditions.
deCODE’s pharmacogenomic research is particularly vital in the near term because glucocorticoids, which represent one of the most widely-used and powerful treatments for asthma, can also have severe side-effects, particularly in children. Glucocorticoid-resistant asthma patients also account for the majority of the multibillion-dollar healthcare cost of the disease worldwide. With the availability of a simple pharmacogenomic test, doctors may be able to prescribe the most beneficial medicines for their patients without a costly and time-consuming process of trial and error. deCODE and Encode have developed an expression-based assay of 7 genes that can predict glucocorticoid responsiveness with nearly 90% accuracy. The test was developed using an in vitro gene-expression model. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells from both responders and non-responders to the drug were isolated and exposed to cell activators to induce an asthma-like state. The expression levels of more than 12,000 genes in these cells were then measured in both groups, both before and after exposure to the drug. This study generated more than 5 million datapoints, information that led to the identification of key genes indicative of responsiveness to glucocorticoids.
Asthma and Allergies
Asthma is the most common chronic disease in children and young adults. Its prevalence in most European and North American countries ranges between 5% and 20% of the population. Approximately 30% of these populations suffer from some sort of allergies. These can manifest themselves in the respiratory tract, in the form of asthma or rhinitis; in the skin, as eczema or skin rash; or in the eyes, as conjunctivitis. Asthma and allergies run in families and are the result of complex interactions between largely unknown genetic and environmental factors.
deCODE genetics 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’s pharmaceuticals group, based in Chicago, and deCODE’s biostructures group, based in Seattle, conduct downstream development work on targets derived from deCODE’s proprietary research in human genetics as well as contract service work for pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. deCODE is delivering on the promise of the new genetics.SM Visit us on the web at www.decode.com.
Any statements contained in this presentation that relate to future plans, events or performance are forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These forward-looking statements are subject to a number of risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those described in the forward-looking statements. These risks and uncertainties include, among others, those relating to technology and product development, integration of acquired businesses, market acceptance, government regulation and regulatory approval processes, intellectual property rights and litigation, dependence on collaborative relationships, ability to obtain financing, competitive products, industry trends and other risks identified in deCODE’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. deCODE undertakes no obligation to update or alter these forward-looking statements as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.