Roche continued its efforts to acquire Illumina by extending its offer through March 23 to buy all outstanding shares of Illumina stock for $5.7 billion (i.e., $44.50 per share). Roche made the original offer in January when they could not get an agreement with Illumina's board of directors to buy the company.
Illumina is the current market leader in high-throughput next-generation sequencing an approach that has particular clinical potential for genetic testing and personalized medicine. Current genetic tests often use PCR to look at one genetic marker at a time or microarray system to generate a broader profile of genetic markers. In fact, Roche, in 2003 with Affymetrix, introduced the first clinical diagnostic using a microarray to identify genetic differences which help doctors determine appropriate dose levels of particular drugs for patients. Later, in 2007, Roche acquired a whole microarray platform by purchasing a competitor of Affymetrix, Nimblegen, and actually, in the same year, it also acquired 454's high-throughput sequencing platform which uses a different technology than Illumina's. Both acquisitions were to support its gene-based clinical diagnostic efforts.
Roche's latest interest in Illumina, then, continues its on-going strategy to become a leader in the developing clinical genomics market. The dogged pursuit of Illumina suggests it sees some unique opportunity with this sequencing technology. Given the rate of development of high-throughput sequencing and its previous investments, is Roche right this time or will new approaches shift the playing field again? Recently Life Technologies announced $1,000 genome sequencing, and Pacific Biosciences just upgraded its single-molecule sequencing system. Stay tuned; the field is moving fast.
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