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Amgen to acquire gene firm for $415m

NEW YORK — In a bid to bolster its drug discovery efforts, the biotechnology giant Amgen said Monday that it would pay $415 million to acquire deCODE Genetics, a gene-hunting business known for its headline-grabbing discoveries linking genetic variations to disease.

The companies are hoping the deal will be symbiotic. deCODE will get a well-financed partner to further its research, while Amgen is hoping to capitalize on the cutting-edge findings.

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deCODE, a privately held company in Iceland, has studied the local population to identify genetic variations linked to schizophrenia, cancer, and numerous other diseases.

The company has had trouble building a sustainable business, and it filed for bankruptcy protection in 2009. It was bought out of bankruptcy in 2010 by Saga Investments, a group led by two venture capital companies, Polaris Venture Partners and Arch Venture Partners.

A big issue for deCODE has been how to make money from its discoveries. Most of the genetic variations raised the risk of getting a disease by only a small amount. That meant there would be little demand for diagnostic tests to detect those variations.

But identifying the gene provides clues to the mechanism of the disease, which pharmaceutical companies might use. deCODE never really had the financial wherewithal to develop drugs and it dropped its fledgling efforts when it emerged from bankruptcy.

Amgen, the world’s largest independent biotechnology company, says it believes it can use deCODE’s findings and technology to its advantage.

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