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Roche buys Ariosa Diagnostics

Published on 02/12/14 at 12:02pm
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Roche has purchased the privately-held US company Ariosa Diagnostics for an undisclosed fee as it looks to expand further into other markets.

Californian-based Ariosa is a molecular diagnostics firm that is mostly known for making a prenatal test that assesses the risk of Down syndrome, among other genetic abnormalities.

Roland Diggelmann who is the chief operating officer of Roche’s Diagnostics division, says: “The acquisition of Ariosa is another example of Roche’s commitment to advanced molecular diagnostics.

“Circulating cfDNA has the promise of providing early diagnostic information through a simple blood test in many important segments including pregnancy, cancer and transplantation, aligning with our strategy in personalised healthcare and commitment to setting new standards of care.”

Basel-based Roche has been looking to diversify its portfolio away from cancer and this move follows hot on the heels of its recent £8.3 billion InterMune buyout, which it paid for in cash.

It was one of several big pharma firms circling the US biotech, all looking to gain access to its new lung scarring drug Esbriet (pirfenidone) for the condition idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).

Roche already markets Pulmozyme (dornase alfa) for cystic fibrosis and Xolair (omalizumab), for severe asthma in the US, and has other experimental respiratory products in clinical development –including another severe asthma drug called lebrikizumab.

Whilst it clearly has the cash reserves for acquisitions, such experiments are not without risk. The firm has seen a mixed bag of results after clinical trial failures for treatments in diabetes, schizophrenia and heart disease.

But Roche has been under pressure from investors to spend some of its huge cash reserves, and this Ariosa purchase sits on top of the three deals it completed just in the summer.

It agreed to pay up to $1.7 billion to acquire Seragon Pharmaceuticals to bolster its cancer treatment range and snapped up Santaris, a Swiss rival, in August for $450 million.

It also has added Genia Technologies, a DNA sequencing company, and IQuum, a diagnostics business, this year, but both deals were relatively small.

“We are thrilled to join forces with Roche to continue in our commitment to bringing forward high quality and affordable genetic testing that positively impacts the medical care of patients around the world,” says Ken Song, chief executive of Ariosa.

The closing of the transaction is expected to take place this month.

Brett Wells

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