Less than a week after signing a deal to buy NimbleGen for $272.5 million, Roche has made a hostile bid to buy another diagnostics firm, the USA’s Ventana Medical Systems, and it is prepared to pay some $3 billion.

The Swiss giant is offering $75 per share in cash to get hold of Ventana, which is based in Tucson, Arizona and specialises in histopathology or tissue-based diagnostics. The offer represents a 44% premium to the latter firm’s closing price of $51.95 on June 22 and a 55% premium to its three-month average.

Roche noted that it has made “multiple efforts to engage in meaningful discussions with Ventana’s chairman and board concerning a negotiated transaction” but they have been snubbed, hence the hostile bid. Nevertheless, the Basle-based group says it “remains willing to discuss a negotiated transaction agreed to by both parties, as this continues to be Roche’s preferred option.” Ventana, which reported first-quarter sales of $64.4 million and net income of $18 million, said it would consider the offer "in due course".

Chief executive Franz Humer said that the US firm would be “an outstanding addition” and “we believe we are the best strategic partner to capitalise on Ventana’s potential. Our compelling, all-cash proposal and attractive premium recognise both the value created by Ventana to date and its future prospects”. Severin Schwan, chief executive of Roche Diagnostics, was also enthusiastic, saying that a combined company “will be uniquely positioned to develop ‘companion diagnostics’ which enable the identification of patient responses to treatments, thereby offering more cost-efficient, differentiated and targeted medicines”. He added that Roche's leadership in oncology and molecular biology, “our strong global market position and broad sales and marketing reach and our distinctive diagnostics capabilities in IT, workflow automation and test standardisation make us the ideal partner for Ventana”.

However the Swiss firm also noted that the offer is dependent on Ventana’s board “taking all necessary actions to make its shareholder rights plan inapplicable to Roche’s offer”. That plan makes an unsolicited bid a more costly and complicated affair.

Mircera could save time and money

Back in the world of pharmaceuticals and Roche said that a new study has shown that its new anaemia treatment Mircera (continuous erythropoietin receptor activator), when taken once a month instead of other erythropoiesis-stimulating agents, could save about 50% of the time health professionals spend on managing the condition in dialysis centres each year.

Results from a 'time and motion' study in Germany and the UK, presented at the European Renal Association-European Dialysis and Transplant Association Congress in Barcelona, showed that for a centre of 100 patients, an average of 37-43 working days a year of employees' time could be saved if they switched their patients from other ESAs to Mircera. Roche was granted an approvable letter for the drug from the US Food and Drug Administration last month and recently received a positive opinion from the European Medicine Agency’s Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use.