Amgen Acquires DeCode Genetics, the Once-Fallen Star, for $415M

Biotech companies rarely ever recover after falling into bankruptcy, but Iceland-based deCode Genetics just pulled off that rare feat. And it apparently has made some significant returns for its two recent venture backers—Polaris Venture Partners and Arch Venture Partners.

Iceland-based deCode agreed to be acquired by Thousand Oaks, CA-based Amgen (NASDAQ: AMGN) for $415 million in cash. That payday arrived less than three years after Arch and Polaris reportedly paid $14 million to acquire deCode’s assets out of bankruptcy.

Amgen said today in a statement that it was buying deCode to get ahold of its “world-class capability in the study of the genetics of human disease,” which should help it speed up development of promising new drug candidates and avoid investments in duds.

DeCode, founded in 1996, gained fame over the past 15 years through a series of genetic discoveries it made and published in top scientific journals. The company, led by CEO Kari Stefansson, was able to find patterns where others didn’t, partly because of its ability to match modern DNA sequencing techniques with a treasure trove of medical and hereditary information from the people of Iceland. But despite the company’s scientific success, it ran into financial trouble, amassing a mountain of more than $300 million in debt around when the global financial crisis struck in the fall of 2008, making it extremely difficult to keep borrowing more. The reborn version of deCode started showing signs of life a little more than a year ago, when it struck a drug discovery partnership with Pfizer (NYSE: PFE).

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