Skip to main content
Premium Trial:

Request an Annual Quote

Population Genomics Control


Ariel Darvasi, president and CSO of Jerusalem-based IDGene, readily acknowledges that he is scientist first, businessman second. So there’s more than the economy to blame for his three-year-old population genomics company’s complete lack of revenues. “We should have put more emphasis on business development. My focus was to get the science right,” Darvasi says.

Nevertheless, in late November, with a technology platform and 14,000 tissue samples finally in place, Darvasi put on his sales hat and headed to the States. After speaking at an industry meeting in Boston, he headed to New York to talk partnerships.

Darvasi, who spent two years as associate director of human genetics and head of statistical genetics at SmithKline Beecham in the UK, says pharma and biotech companies could benefit from IDGene’s approach — a combination of genetic statistics, DNA pooling, and homogeneous sample collection — to identify links between diseases and genes and to identify or validate drug targets.

A study slated for publication in the December issue of the American Journal of Human Genetics shows how the IDGene team, with colleagues from several Israeli research institutes and Stanford, found a “highly significant association” between schizophrenia and a haplotype of the catechol-O-methyltransferase gene. The study, which looked at samples taken from about 1,000 Ashkenazi Jews, is the largest case-control study performed to date in schizophrenia, according to the researchers.

The homogeneous Ashkenazis account for the “population” in IDGene’s “population genomics.” The company has collected 14,000 tissue samples from the Eastern European descendants, including 5,000 healthy controls, from within a 10-mile radius of Tel Aviv.

Darvasi notes that IDGene’s strong statistical genetics approach is key. “Knowing how to look at and interpret data is so important. It’s amazing how easily a genotyping error can produce a false positive. If your a priori chance of identifying something is low, then when you do identify something, the chances it’s correct are low.”

Of course, when it comes to his chances of snagging a deal with pharma right now, Darvasi is probably better off ignoring statistics.

— Adrienne Burke

The Scan

Genetic Risk Factors for Hypertension Can Help Identify Those at Risk for Cardiovascular Disease

Genetically predicted high blood pressure risk is also associated with increased cardiovascular disease risk, a new JAMA Cardiology study says.

Circulating Tumor DNA Linked to Post-Treatment Relapse in Breast Cancer

Post-treatment detection of circulating tumor DNA may identify breast cancer patients who are more likely to relapse, a new JCO Precision Oncology study finds.

Genetics Influence Level of Depression Tied to Trauma Exposure, Study Finds

Researchers examine the interplay of trauma, genetics, and major depressive disorder in JAMA Psychiatry.

UCLA Team Reports Cost-Effective Liquid Biopsy Approach for Cancer Detection

The researchers report in Nature Communications that their liquid biopsy approach has high specificity in detecting all- and early-stage cancers.