Archive for Íslendingabók

Mýrin aka Jar City [book review]

Posted in Books, Mountains, pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 26, 2015 by xi'an

Mýrin (“The Bog”) is the third novel in the Inspector Erlendur series written by Arnaldur Indridason. It contains the major themes of the series, from the fascination for unexplained disappearances in Iceland to Elendur’s inability to deal with his family responsibilities, to domestic violence, to exhumations. The death that starts the novel takes place in the district of Norðurmýri, “the northern marsh”, not far from the iconic Hallgrimskirkja, and not far either from DeCODE, the genetic company I visited last June and which stores genetic information about close to a million Icelanders, the Íslendingabók. And which plays an important and nefarious role in the current novel. While this episode takes place mostly between Reykjavik and Keflavik, hence does not offer any foray into Icelandic landscapes, it reflects quite vividly on the cultural pressure still present in the recent years to keep rapes and sexual violence a private matter, hidden from an indifferent or worse police force. It also shows how the police misses (in 2001) the important genetic clues for being yet unaware of the immense and frightening possibilities of handling the genetic code of an entire population. (The English and French titles refer to the unauthorised private collections of body part accumulated [in jars] by doctors after autopsies, families being unaware of the fact.) As usual, solving the case is the least important part of the story, which tells about broken lifes and survivors against all odds.

visiting deCODE [Íslensk erfðagreining]

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , on June 9, 2015 by xi'an

Tonight, we [participants to the NBBC15 conference] got invited [and bused] to deCODE, the Icelandic genetic company that has worked on the human genome since 1996, taking advantage of the uniquely homogeneous features of the Icelandic population. Which overwhelmingly descends from the few originals settlers to populate Iceland in the late 800’s.  deCODE is located in downtown Reyjavik next to the regional airport and to Hallgrímskirkja, the iconic church overlooking the city. The genetic company has gathered genotypic and phenotypic information about half the population of Iceland and, thanks to extensive genealogical sources, has also put together the Íslendingabók that covers the entire current population and runs back to the origins of the country. Despite being a company (and now a subsidiary of Amgen), deCODE appears to operate just like another research institution, searching for genetic explanations of diseases and genotyping more and more individuals towards that goal, with a startup atmosphere in a well-designed building… A most unusual and enjoyable evening at a conference! Making me wonder if they have visiting positions…