The Icelandic company Decode Genetics
June 18, 2002 11:39 AM   Subscribe

The Icelandic company Decode Genetics may have the lead in creating a catalog of the deviant genes that cause most diseases. Led by Dr. Kari Stefansson, the project uses a novel combination of genotyping living Icelanders and comparing the results to Iceland's unique genealogical database that extends back 1100 years. With Iceland's other project to completely switch from fossil feuls to hydrogen power, my admiration for that island of Vikings keeps growing stronger. (2nd and 3rd links are nytimes, free registration required).
posted by homunculus (6 comments total)
I admire them for being fighting an erupting volcano to a draw; I've also heard they make nice sweaters.

Oddly enough, I just read a complaint about Iceland from the sometimes interesting/sometimes batty John Derbyshire, in National Review.
posted by coelecanth at 1:45 PM on June 18, 2002

i've noticed this utopic iceland thing going on... like i think it started with sigur ros and stuff and noticing some people who visited (like david eggers :) and then yeah their leadership in genetics and hydrogen, but like it really crystallized for me after reading about the icelandic free state on danny yee's book reviews. it's kinda weird i think :) i thought ian wright's trip was pretty funny tho!
posted by kliuless at 2:03 PM on June 18, 2002

NOVA had a repeat program about this the other night on PBS. You can watch it here (scroll down to #12: Finding Disease Genes). I though it was a pretty well done show, something we might need more of in light of this.
posted by piskycritter at 2:31 PM on June 18, 2002

I took an excellent class on Viking Civilization with the author of that book kiliuless linked to.

Before, I had no idea how unique and progressive Iceland was a millennia ago. Their representative supreme governmental body, the Althing has survived off and on for more than a thousand years. We know so much about life and history in Northern Europe during the Dark Ages from the sagas which come to us primarily through Iceland.

The set of Family Sagas are one reason so much research can be done on this homogeneous population because they enable most current residents to trace their ancestry back to the original 20,000 or so settlers in the 10th century.

Other Sagas also make great reading. Egil's Saga is the prototype for almost all fantasy novels written these days and it's better than most of them. Tolkien and Wagner drew inspiration from the Volsung Saga which was part myth, part legend, and part oral history. And Njal's Saga is considered one of the great books of Western Civilization and a tragic example of life and death in medieval Iceland.
posted by euphorb at 4:51 PM on June 18, 2002

How refreshing that Decode is doing its work in the name of science, unlike Celera, which seems more focused on making money.
posted by dayvin at 8:06 AM on June 19, 2002

I haven't read any his work myself yet, but for contemporary Icelandic literature I've heard that Einar Karason is quite good, especially the "Devil's Isle" trilogy.
posted by homunculus at 11:29 AM on June 19, 2002

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