Roche and Illumina have both made fresh appeals to the US gene specialist's shareholders concerning the Swiss major's sweetened hostile takeover bid ahead of an eagerly-anticipated annual general meeting on April 18.

Last month, Roche increased its offer by 15% to $51.00 per share, valuing Illumina at about $6.60 billion. However, this was rejected by the latter's board, which called the offer opportunistic.

Now the Basel-headquartered group has issued a second letter to shareholders urging them to accept its bid and vote for its nominees at the AGM. Chief executive Severin Schwan (pictured) said the Illumina board has "yet to make a single quantitative argument substantiating its future growth" regarding demand for its products in emerging markets and industrial end-markets.

Offer already factors in growth prospects

He goes on to claim that since Roche’s offer, "the only relevant industry news highlighted the increasing competitive landscape following product-related announcements from Oxford Nanopore and Life Technologies". Dr Schwan adds that analysts "who understand the future potential of the sequencing market, Illumina’s role in the industry, as well as its future growth prospects" had already factored this into their price targets prior to Roche’s offer "and these targets had a median value of $34 per share".

He concludes by saying that "we believe our offer is highly attractive, representing both full and fair value as well as value certainty today that fully incorporates Illumina’s future growth prospects".

However the Illumina board appears to be unmoved and issued its own (and third) appeal to shareholders. Its letter urges stockholders to reject Roche’s efforts to acquire the firm at "a grossly inadequate price", noting that with "the rapid adoption of next-generation sequencing in research and clinical settings…Illumina is singularly positioned as the leading player whose technologies, products and services are fundamental to the sector".

The San Diego-based firm says that "the molecular diagnostics space alone represents a $3 billion long-term growth opportunity" and its HiSeq and MiSeq platforms "are already being adopted by leading diagnostic reference labs such as Sequenom, Genomic Health, Partners Healthcare and many others". For the longer term, Illumina is partnering with firms such as Siemens Healthcare, deCode Genetics and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center to develop diagnostic kits for the MiSeq "that we believe will eventually be used in thousands of hospital labs worldwide".

Future market opportunities, "assuming a $1,000 cost per genome and only 1% penetration, could easily result in more than $600 million of new revenue for Illumina", the board concludes.

More fake Avastin found

Meantime, the Food and Drug Administration has found a new counterfeit version of Roche's cancer blockbuster Avastin (bevacizumab), which has been distributed in the USA and contains no active ingredient.

The fake drugs are labelled as Altuzan, the brand name Avastin is sold as in Turkey. The agency notes that medical practices obtained the counterfeit Altuzan and other unapproved products through foreign sources, in particular from Richards Pharma, also known as Richards Services, Warwick Healthcare Solutions, or Ban Dune Marketing.

The agency adds that "many, if not all, of the products sold and distributed through this distributor have not been approved by the FDA". In February, the FDA sent out letters to 19 medical practices - which had all purchased unapproved cancer medicines from a foreign supplier - warning them about a fake version of Avastin.