Just after Roche's chairman Franz Humer ruled out a fresh bid for Illumina, the US gene specialist is planning to splash out over $350 million to acquire Verinata Health.

The latter deal comes after comments made by Dr Humer in an interview with the Swiss newspaper SonntagsZeitung. Roche spent four months last year trying to persude Illumina to sell but in April decided not to extend an offer which valued the latter at around $6.60 billion.

The newspaper quotes the Roche chairman as saying that "Illumina is definitely off the table", claiming that the US firm was not willing "to abandon the totally unrealistic price they were asking for". He went on to say that "Roche does not do acquisitions that don't create value", adding that Illumina was "a 'nice to have' and not a 'must have' for us. There are several alternatives to get hold of gene-sequencing technology. I'm not worried about that".

For its part, Illumina is also looking ahead and has agreed to pay a $350 million upfront fee, plus up to $100 million in milestones through 2015, to acquire Verinata. The latter is a leading provider of non-invasive tests for the early identification of foetal chromosomal abnormalities.

Illumina chief executive Jay Flatley said the deal builds on the firm's recent acquisition of the UK's BlueGnome, a Cambridge University spin-out which specialises in screening for genetic abnormalities. He added that coupled with "our expertise in next-generation sequencing", the Verinata deal "further establishes Illumina as a leader in reproductive health".