After Abandoning PacBio Deal, Illumina Inks 15-Year Pact with Roche

In Vitro Testing

At the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco, Illumina’s chief executive officer, Francis deSouza, announced a 15-year, non-exclusive deal with Roche. The deal will increase the availability of next-generation sequencing-based in vitro diagnostic (IVD) tests on Illumina’s diagnostic sequencing systems.

In addition, the two companies will collaborate to complement Illumina’s pan-cancer assay TruSight Oncology 500 (TSO 500) with new companion diagnostic (CDx) claims.

As part of the deal, Illumina grants Roche rights to develop and distribute IVD tests on Illumina’s NextSeq 550Dx System, in addition to its future portfolio of Dx sequencing systems, including the soon-to-be-released NovaSeqDx. Roche, on its part, will collaborate on the TSO 500.

No financial details were disclosed.

“We are excited Roche has selected Illumina’s sequencers as their platform of choice to accelerate the adoption and broaden the reach of oncology-based, distributable IVD tests into clinical care,” said deSouza. “This partnership complements and strengthens our strategy to establish TSO 500 as a comprehensive NGS panel for cancer therapies by expanding the supported set of CDx claims on this universal panel.”

The TSO 500 is designed to identify known and emerging cancer biomarkers. It uses both DNA and RNA from tumor samples to identify key somatic variants associated with tumor progression, including small DNA variants, fusions and splice variants.

This deal comes only a short time after Illumina canceled a $1.2 billion merger deal with another next-generation sequencing company, Pacific Biosciences (PacBio). That deal was abandoned after deciding it was not likely to be approved by antitrust regulators in the U.S. and UK. Illumina holds about 80% of the global DNA sequencing market.

The deal today will expand access to NGS and its clinical use. The companies hope to make NGS available to treatment centers globally even more broadly where they will be used to guide treatment decisions.

In June 2018, Roche acquired Foundation Medicine for about $2.4 billion. Based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Foundation Medicine is an oncology molecular information company offering a full suite of comprehensive genomic profiling (CGP) assays used to identify molecular changes in cancer patients and match them to appropriate therapies and clinical trials.

This new agreement brings Illumina in alignment with Foundation, which is something of a warning to other companies in the NGS space, including Thermo Fisher and Agilent.

In 2012, Roche attempted a $6.8 billion hostile takeover of Illumina, but the deal never came together. The next year Roche said it abandoned its attempts because Illumina’s asking price was “unrealistic.”

Of the new agreement, deSouza said, “At Illumina, we are focused on three key areas to scale the reach and impact of genomics—enabling breakthrough genomics research, accelerating the clinical adoption of genomics and delivering fundamentally enabling technology innovations. The NextSeq 1000 and 2000 Sequencing Systems, TruSight Software and our partnership with Roche, will accelerate the adoption of research and clinical sequencing for the benefit of humanity.”

TruSight Software Suite v1.0 is part of a turnkey data analysis solution that should accelerate clinical adoption of NGS. The software allows sample-to-report for genetic disease.

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