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Roche and deCODE narrow gene hunt

deCODE chief executive, Kari Stefansson, sees good progress in his company's alliance with Roche Keystone

Basel-based healthcare group Roche and Iceland's deCODE Genetics have extended their deal to develop new drugs for a further three years.

This content was published on January 29, 2002 - 13:22

The two companies also announced on Tuesday that they would now be concentrating their resources on just four diseases.

Reykjavik-based deCODE is searching for disease-gene links by analysing Iceland's unique genetic heritage, which has remained stable since the Vikings arrived in the ninth and 10th centuries.

The two firms were originally hunting for genes associated with 12 disease areas under the programme launched in 1998.

A deCODE spokesman declined to specify which diseases had been selected from this initial list, but said they included projects where scientists had made key genetic discoveries.

The existing alliance has already produced promising leads for treating disorders including schizophrenia, obesity, osteoporosis, Alzheimer's and cardiovascular disease.

The spokesman added that deCODE would take over the eight disease programmes not being pursued by Roche for its own in-house drug development work.

No financial terms have been given for the accord, which extends an agreement that would have expired at the end of this month. Roche's Icelandic partner will receive unspecified payments as compounds pass development milestones, plus royalties on eventual sales.

Kari Stefansson, chief executive of deCODE, said the shift in focus from genetics to drug recovery reflected good progress in the alliance with Roche and his company's greatly expanded capability for taking discoveries into drug development.

Earlier this month, deCODE agreed to buy United States-based chemistry firm MediChem Life Sciences for $83.6 million (SFr143 million) in stock, underlining its desire to move away from simply providing technology to becoming a fully-integrated biotech company.

swissinfo with agencies

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