The family has proven the most appropriate unit with which to study Mendelian diseases. There are, however, certain limitations on the use of the family as a fundamental unit in the study of common diseases, most of which are complex genetic diseases. The groups that are most likely to yield the genetics of complex diseases are isolated populations with strong founder effects. Therefore, access to such populations is proving to be a precious resource in the work on the genetics of common diseases. The Icelandic population is an excellent population for the study of the genetics of common diseases; it is genetically homogeneous, with founder effects for many traits, and the genealogy of the entire nation is well documented back to the founding days. Furthermore, the nature of the Icelandic national health care system facilitates the assignment of phenotypes in the search for disease genes.
Decode Genetics has begun to study of the genetics of 20 of the most common diseases in the Western parts of the world. The company has placed the groundwork for the construction of an encrypted database with information on the health care of the entire nation, genealogy of the entire nation, genotyping information with high density of markers on a large part of the nation (including typing for known disease genes), and resource use in the Icelandic health care system. The plan is to build the database with approval of participating individuals as well as Icelandic government and health care officials. The database will be used to model health care as viewed in the context of genetic predisposition to the development of disease. The database will also be used in the search for drug targets in complex diseases and in the solution of pharmacogenomic problems. Basing the company in Iceland directly benefits the population in terms of employment and return on investment as well as providing the health care system with an information resource which may be used in preventive medicine and in the optimization of health care in Iceland.
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