Lost Dollars in Gene Research

Billions of R&D dollars flowed to companies promising to cure our ills. Most of those companies are now dead or forgotten.




Human Genome Sciences Founded in 1992 as a gene-focused drug-discovery company, a mission that seemed all the brighter with the decoding of the genome. HGS has no drugs on the market. It has gotten to the second round of Phase III trials for its lupus drug, Benlysta, making it a relative winner in the field, but the company still has a way to go before bringing even that drug to market.
Millennium Predictive Medicine Founded in 1997, the company was spun off to develop gene-based tests and treatments for a variety of ailments. By 2000, MPMx had been reabsorbed by its parent company, Millennium Pharmaceuticals, which was soon acquired itself. Today, MPMx exists invisibly within Millennium: the Takeda Oncology Co.
Incyte Founded in 1991 to develop protein therapeutics and later sell gene-mapping technologies. Incyte burned through $150 million on R&D in 1999 alone; by 2004, the company had closed the doors on its genomics division.
Sangamo Founded in 1995 to use “zinc fingers” to turn genes on or off, creating a wide range of therapies. Companies have adopted the zinc-finger technology for plant and animal research, and Sangamo is developing an HIV treatment but has yet to get a product to market.
Variagenics Founded in 1992, it announced plans for NuCleave, a genotyping product, in 2001 . The NuCleave division was shut down by 2002; numerous mergers have left Variagenics buried within ARCA biopharma.
Nutragenomics Founded in 2002 to develop tests that offered personalized diets based on genetic profiles. No products ever made it to market. Founder Jim Kaput says the company is “on hold — that is, it still exists, but we are not pursuing development.”
Interleukin Genetics Founded in 1986 with a focus on systems biology, it later planned to develop personalized medicine, based on the principles of pharmacogenomics. Interleukin is exploring the idea of partnering with drug companies but is currently selling direct-to-consumer (non-FDA approved) gene tests for heart disease and weight management.
Genset Founded in 1989, it later planned to develop Famoxin, a gene-based drug to treat obesity. Genset’s key Famoxin researchers simultaneously walked out on the company, which quickly put an end to the drug. Genset has since disappeared in a wave of mergers.
Sciona Founded in 2000 to sell gene tests directly to consumers. The tests were pulled from the market after angry scientists called them unsafe. Sciona is now undergoing a “restructuring period” and is not accepting new orders.