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Early explorations in genomics
Incyte, Inc. is founded in Palo Alto, CA by Roy Whitfield, the president of a life sciences subsidiary of Invitron, headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri, along with Randall W. Scott, a bioscientist and Invitron co-founder. Incyte’s initial assets and technologies are purchased from Invitron, which is in liquidation. The acquisitions are funded principally by Schroder Venture Advisers, Inc. of New York City.
Initially, the heart of Incyte’s business is its LifeSeq genomics database. The company makes the database publicly available and sells subscriptions to proprietary genes unavailable from any other source – approximately half of the total number. Customers include Abbott Laboratories, Hoechst AG, Johnson & Johnson, Novo Nordisk A/S, Pharmacia & Upjohn, Inc., and Pfizer. In 1996, Incyte moves into customized genomics with the purchase of Genome Systems, a company that supplies specific DNA sequences to research operations.
Incyte has since embarked on a drug development program. The focus is on Janus kinases, or JAKs. JAKs are enzymes involved in the regulation of various cellular and intracellular processes. The company has identified genetic mutations that result in the over-activation of the JAK pathway and downstream pathologies. It is currently testing the efficacy of JAK inhibitors as treatments for myelofibrosis (a bone marrow disorder) and polycythemia vera (an abnormal increase in red blood cells) in Phase III clinical trials.