Roche will continue to pursue the clinical sequencing market despite scrapping a three-year-old development deal with Pacific Biosciences of Menlo Park, California in December. Neil Gunn, head of Roche's Sequencing Solutions unit, said in an announcement that the company will “actively pursue multiple technologies and commercial strategies” to achieve its long-held goal of market leadership in clinical diagnostics. Pacific Biosciences' single-molecule, real-time technology will no longer be part of the equation, however. Instead, the Basel-based pharma will focus development efforts on the nanopore technology it gained through its $350 million acquisition of Santa Clara, California–based Genia Technologies in 2014. Roche is also preparing to launch cancer screening assays to detect circulating tumor DNA. Roche obtained the assays when it bought CAPP Medical, a privately held genomics company founded by Stanford University oncologists last year. In the deal with Pacific Biosciences, Roche had envisioned deploying assays on the biotech's Sequel sequencing instrument. With the deal wound up, Roche is now free to focus its energies elsewhere, while Pacific Biosciences is no longer held to its exclusive relationship with Roche and can court other partners. Pacific Biosciences CEO Michael Hunkapiller said in a statement that he was “disappointed” with Roche's decision, but that the company is “prepared to immediately pursue opportunities” in the clinical research and sequencing market, with a focus on clients that offer laboratory-developed tests. Roche has long coveted a leadership role in the clinical sequencing market and has been particularly acquisitive in the past two years, snatching up Signature Diagnostics, a German translational oncology and genomics company, and Bina Technologies, a genomics analysis provider in Belmont, California, in addition to CAPP Medical and Genia. Roche also acquired Ariosa Diagnostics, a provider of sequencing-based noninvasive prenatal testing located in San Jose, California, in 2014. So far, Roche's attempts to corner the market have been frustrated, notably when it attempted a hostile takeover of San Diego, California–based Illumina in 2012 for over $6 billion, an effort that ended with Illumina shareholders voting against Roche's slate of proposed new candidates to the company's board of directors. In 2013, Roche also wound down its 454 Life Sciences business unit, six years after acquiring the Branford, Connecticut–based company for $155 million, citing the noncompetitiveness of its technology in a market dominated by Illumina, Thermo Fisher Scientific and other sequencing players. 454 was widely seen as the Swiss pharma's first foray into the next-generation sequencing space.
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Nature Biotechnology (2019)