A new day dawns and Roche announces another acquisition – the Swiss healthcare major is buying Canadian antibody specialist Arius Research in an all-cash deal worth C$191 million (around $189.3 million).

Under the terms of the deal, Roche will pay C$2.44 for each common share of Arius, which represents a 15% premium to the latter’s closing price last night and 44% up on the 20-day volume-weighted average closing price ending May 15, the last trading day prior to Arius announcing that third parties had shown interest in the company and its technologies. Roche will also acquire all of the Toronto-headquartered firm’s issued and outstanding warrants.

The attraction of Arius is that Roche will gain access to a new screening platform for antibody therapeutics called FunctionFIRST. The latter will allow the Basel-based major to strengthen its portfolio, “initially within the areas of oncology and inflammatory diseases where this new technique offers potentially broad therapeutic applications”, the firms said.

Lee Babiss, head of global pharma research at Roche, said that Arius’ platform and early pipeline of new antibody candidates “represent an excellent fit with our own progressing research in the fields of cancer and immunology”. He added that the FunctionFIRST approach “provides us with a large library of antibodies from which we can identify the best new drug candidates.”

The Arius deal was announced just a day after Roche said that it is paying $125 million to take control of Mirus Bio Corp, a privately-held company in Wisconsin, USA, which specialises in RNA interference. As for Roche’s bid to buy the 44.1% of Genentech that it does not already own, announced on Monday morning, the US biotechnology giant’s chief executive Arthur Levinson was scheduled to meet with officials of the Swiss firm last night.

It has also emerged that Mr Levinson exercised options to sell 90,000 Genentech shares on Friday, for prices ranging from $80.66 to $81.05. This seems to be a pretty clear indicator that Roche’s move was not expected by Genentech given that the latter’s stock price is now up at $93.55, so Mr Levinson could have made a considerable profit if he had hung on to the shares for a few more days.