Kári Stefánsson

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Kári Stefánsson, (born 1949, Iceland) is an Icelandic neurologist, who is the President, Chairman, CEO and co-founder of deCODE Genetics. He has pioneered the monitoring of the DNA of a large fraction of an entire country's population leading to a complete genealogy of its native inhabitants. This has led to the discovery of the neuregulin-1 gene's association with schizophrenia.

Education and early career[edit]

Kári Stefánsson was born in 1949 in Iceland.[1] He received his M.D. in 1976 and his Dr. med. in 1986 from the University of Iceland. He went to the University of Chicago and trained in neurology, neuropathology, and neurosciences and served on the faculty there for 10 years, from 1983 until 1993. Thereafter, he was a professor of neurology, neuropathology and neuroscience at Harvard University, from 1993 until 1997. Concurrently at that time, he was director of neuropathology at Boston's Beth Israel Hospital, from 1993 to 1996. While in Boston, he and his colleague Jeffrey Gulcher decided to return to Iceland to perform genetic studies to determine multiple sclerosis risk.[2]


In June 2012, his daughter, Sólveig "Sóla" Káradóttir, married Dhani Harrison, son of the late George Harrison and his wife, Olivia Harrison. He has 4 children: Svanhildur, Ari, Sólveig and Móeiður. He also has 6 grandchildren: Markús, Alexander, Leo, Katrín, Isól, and Katla.

At DeCode Genetics[edit]

Kári Stefánsson founded DeCode Genetics in 1996 in the midst of concerns about privacy related to a large centralized healthcare database and the commercial use of health information and genetics. As of 2003, nearly 100,000 of 285,000 Icelandic citizens have consented and given blood to DeCode Genetics for analysis.[3] The process has linked the country’s genetics profiles with medical records and genealogy information. This has led to the discovery of the neuregulin-1 gene's association with schizophrenia, a condition that Stefánsson’s brother has.[4] In 2007, his compensation was $662,296.[5] He was on the Time 100 list in 2007.

Although the company went bankrupt in 2009, it resumed its data collection in 2014 after it was purchased by Amgen, by sending out another 100,000 envelopes to add to the 120,000 samples already taken.[6]

Appearances in popular culture[edit]

Kári is the model for Professor Lárus Jóhannsson in Dauðans óvissi tími by Þráinn Bertelsson (Reykjavík: JPV Útgáfu, 2004) and the principal villain of Óttar M. Norðfjörð's satirical 2007 book Jón Ásgeir & afmælisveislan ([Reykjavík]: Sögur, 2007), in which he creates a female version of Davíð Oddsson from a sample of Davíð's hair. He is the model for Hrólfur Zóphanías Magnússon, director of the company CoDex, in CoDex 1962 by Sjón.[7][8]

He was also in the documentary Bobby Fischer Against the World where he engaged in controversial debate with late Bobby Fischer.[9][10]


  1. ^ "Biographies of Delegates S-Y". Imperial College London. Archived from the original on 21 October 2004.
  2. ^ Executive Profile from BusinessWeek magazine [1]
  3. ^ McKie, Robin (16 May 2004). "Icelandic DNA project hit by privacy storm". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 Dec 2014.
  4. ^ Helen Pearson. Kári Stefánsson. Nature Medicine (2003) 9(9):1099.
  5. ^ Executive Profile from BusinessWeek magazine [2]
  6. ^ "deCODE is going door to door for your DNA". Genetic Privacy Network. Archived from the original on 2014-12-21. Retrieved Dec 21, 2014.
  7. ^ Reykjavík: JPV, 2016.
  8. ^ Einar Kári Jóhannsson, 'Þjóð(ar)saga Sjóns: Pólitísk ummyndun á sameiginlegum minningum Íslendinga í sögulegum skáldverkum Sjóns' (unpublished MA thesis, University of Iceland, 2018), p. 67.
  9. ^ "Bobby Fischer Against the World, IMDB".
  10. ^ Phil Dyess-Nugent. "AV/TV Club Review".