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Roche Expands Infectious Disease Test Portfolio

The COVID-19 pandemic has graphically illustrated the importance of reliable, quick testing for infectious diseases. Already a big player in the PCR-test market, Roche has announced that it will expand its portfolio with the purchase of Berlin-based biotech, TIB Molbiol.

TIB Molbiol has collaborated with Roche for more than 20 years, developing ultra-rapid assays for emerging infectious disease. The long-running partnership to 'rapidly address critical healthcare needs' has included biological threats as serious as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), anthrax, avian influenza virus (H5N1), Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), the novel influenza virus (H1N1) swine, Ebola virus, Zika virus and most recently, the SARS-CoV-2 virus and its variants.

While no financial details of the deal have been announced, Roche has agreed to acquire 100% of the outstanding shares of the TIB Molbiol Group, a transaction expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2021.

The acquisition enables Roche to expand its portfolio of in vitro diagnostic assays for its LightCycler PCR instruments. It currently has 45 assays on the market and more than 100 for research use.

“With this acquisition, we can expand our offering of tests of existing pathogens and our response to emerging pathogens and potential health threats,” said Thomas Schinecker, CEO of Roche Diagnostics. “At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, our collaboration provided the first research-use-only SARS-CoV-2 detection test that was provided in January 2020, only days after the new coronavirus was first sequenced. Together, we can further improve patient outcomes with innovative diagnostic solutions that alleviate healthcare costs.”

SARS-CoV-2 was not the first ultra-fast PCR assay developed by TIB Molbiol; in 2001 with anthrax and 2003 with SARS-CoV1, assays were developed to detect the new pathogens within days.

“We are very happy to join the Roche Group,” said Olfert Landt, CEO and founder of TIB Molbiol. “We have been collaborating for two decades and have spearheaded innovation in the molecular diagnostics industry as partners.”

Infectious disease remains a high priority for Roche which, in March, signed a $1.8bn cash deal to purchase of GenMark Diagnostics and its molecular tests designed to detect multiple pathogens from a single patient sample.