This week’s Lancet has a profile of Kari Stefansson, CEO of DeCode Genetics. Regular readers have been exposed to much of the groundbreaking research done by the company, which has DNA samples from ~65% of the Icelandic population and a geneology that stretches back 1000 years. This is the group that published on the “fertility inversion“, alleles that cause an ethnic-group-specific risk for heart disease, and generally has been one of the few groups to have success finding alleles that contribute to succeptibility for complex diseases like prostate cancer or diabetes.
Could anyone with a dataset as good as the entire Icelandic population pull this off? Stefansson:
“No, no, no. The real advantage is just that we are the best scientists, alright? Don’t give me this bullshit about our advantage being the [Icelandic] population. Why do we have this population? Because we realised the importance of it.” Although the tone of his voice suggests that he is being slightly tongue in cheek, it is clear that he is serious about the underlying message.
His repsponse to a question we’ve often asked interviewees– any interest in your own genome sequence?
Stefansson says that he is not planning to follow Craig Venter’s example and have his own DNA sequenced. “My mother died at the age of 62. My father died at the age of 67. And therefore I have been very diligent about avoiding to learn anything about my own disease predisposition”, he says. “I want to die ignorant of my weaknesses.”