Source: © Robert Mizerek/
Source: © Robert Mizerek/

Roche has acquired Signature Diagnostics for an undisclosed price. The deal is designed to strengthen Roche’s cancer diagnostics effort with Signature’s expertise in both biobanks and next-generation sequencing (NGS) assays, and is the pharma giant’s fifth deal in less than a year focused on molecular diagnostics and data analysis.

Signature will be integrated into Roche’s Sequencing Unit and will continue to focus on expanding its genomic signature portfolio.

Founded in 2004, privately-held Signature is a translational oncology and genomics company that develops large blood plasma and tissue biobanks in multiple cancers—including colorectal and lung cancers—constructed from multicenter prospective clinical studies.

Signature uses the samples from its biobanks along with accompanying clinical progression and genetic data to develop and validate circulating cell free DNA (cfDNA) tests for research use only, with the goal of advancing non-invasive treatment response monitoring for patients with cancer. Signature also develops several NGS assays, which use targeted gene panels and are also for research use only.

“Signature represents a unique bridge between high value cancer biobanks and NGS assay development.  Roche plans to leverage Signature's expertise in both of these areas to accelerate the development of targeted NGS-based diagnostics in the future,” Roland Diggelmann, COO, Roche Diagnostics, said in a statement.

Added Andre Rosenthal, Ph.D., Signature’s CEO: “We are very pleased Roche recognizes the importance of high-quality longitudinal cancer biobanks for the development of novel NGS-based diagnostics.”

Signature is the fifth deal in the past year aimed at building Roche’s molecular diagnostics business. Last month Roche said it will take a majority stake in Foundation Medicine (FMI) for $1.18 billion, launching a personalized medicine partnership intended to help develop new Roche cancer drugs by harnessing FMI’s capabilities in molecular information and genomic analysis.

In December 2014, the pharma giant said it was acquiring Ariosa Diagnostics for an undisclosed price to enter the non-invasive prenatal and cell-free DNA testing markets. Ariosa is a San Jose-based molecular diagnostics testing service provider that offers non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) through their CLIA laboratory using cfDNA technology. The deal was completed earlier this year.

Six months earlier in June 2014, Roche acquired Genia Technologies for up to $350 million— $125 million cash upfront, plus up to $225 million in milestone payments—to, the developer of a single-molecule, semiconductor-based, DNA sequencing platform using nanopore technology. Roche said at the time that Genia’s sequencing technology held potential for disrupting the market by reduce the price of sequencing while increasing speed and sensitivity.

And in April 2014, Roche snapped up IQuum for $275 million upfront and up to $175 million in product-related milestones, with the intent of strengthening its offerings in molecular diagnostics. The acquisition provided Roche with access to IQuum’s Laboratory-in-a-tube (Liat™) System, which enables healthcare workers to perform rapid molecular diagnostic testing in a point-of-care setting.

Roche’s sequencing unit is part of its Diagnostics Division, which saw sales rise 6% in 2014 to CHF 10.766 billion ($11.678 billion), driven by increases in its professional diagnostics (8%) and molecular diagnostics (6%) segments.

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