Drug Companies Researching Rare Superhuman DNA

Photo by Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sam Peterson Contributor
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Imagine not being able to feel any pain or having bones so strong that they are nearly impossible to break. For a small number of people, these superhuman traits are a reality, and drug companies are fascinated by the potential pharmaceutical implications.

Steven Pete and Timothy Dreyer both have unique genetic mutations that make them coveted research subjects by many major drug companies, Bloomberg reports.

Pete, who is from Washington, has a rare mutation that allows him to feel no pain. According to his website, Pete’s condition was first discovered when as a baby he began chewing his own tongue. His doctor was able to diagnose him with congenital analgesia.

Dreyer was diagnosed as a baby with sclerosteosis, a bone density mutation. An Oxford journal describes the disorder as “characterized by a generalized hyperostosis and sclerosis leading to a markedly thickened and sclerotic skull, with mandible, ribs, clavicles and all long bones also being affected.”

Both Dreyer and Pete have had their lives affected significantly due to their mutations, Dreyer has suffered hearing loss, and Pete’s left leg is so severely damaged from not being able to feel pain that he faces amputation in the near future.

However, scientists hope that people like Pete and Dreyer will provide a pharmaceutical solution to diseases like osteoporosis and an alternative to opium based pain-killers, according to Bloomberg.

The Washington, D.C.-based pharmaceutical company Amgen is leading the way into researching the rare genetic disorders. Amgen’s website says it seeks to “,serve patients by transforming the promise of science and biotechnology into therapies that have the power to restore health or even save lives.”

In 2012, Amgen acquired the Icelandic bio-tech company DeCode Genetics for $415 million. DeCode Genetics is estimated to have a massive database, including over 50 percent of adults in Iceland.

Not only does Amgen have the chance to save lives, but they stand to profit tremendously while doing so. Bloomberg estimates that the current painkiller market is worth $18 billion annually.

Sam Peterson