When I went to a conference on Genomics at Northwestern University in 1997 there was great excitement that the human genome project was going to be finishing quicker than anticipated. There was also widespread controversy that one company, Incyte Pharmaceuticals, had patented a vast number of genes, or at least the ability to do anything with them–the academics in Chicago were worried about the effect this would have on their research. Incyte’s business was based on selling its library of genes to pharma companies for their R&D. A couple of years after that Incyte’s stock got caught up in the 1999-2000 craziness and at one point the company was worth $25 billion, give or take a billion.
But soon a combination of Craig Ventner’s Celera Genomics joining the gene sequencing arms race and the increased public domain access to genetic information brought that business back to earth. Yesterday Incyte shuttered its Palo Alto offices and with it the proprietary genomic data product lines, LifeSeq and ZooSeq and will concentrate on its own drug development work instead. Its market cap is now back below $1 billion and actually looks generous at this level.