Life Sciences Insight

Roche ties the knot with long-time testmaking partner TIB Molbiol after COVID successes

Roche has snapped up its longtime test-making partner, TIB Molbiol, to help boost its reach in infectious diseases and better prepare its portfolio for the next potential pandemic.

The Berlin-based diagnostics company, which has worked with Roche for more than two decades, specializes in developing tests rapidly. It can respond to emerging infectious disease threats within days—a capability the Swiss biopharma giant said strongly demonstrated its value during the spread of COVID-19.

The acquisition will also bring Roche dozens of currently available assays that run on its own LightCycler PCR-based instruments and sample prep hardware, including more than 45 CE marked tests and more than 100 kits for research use only.

“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,” Roche Diagnostics CEO Thomas Schinecker said in a statement. “With this acquisition, we can expand our offering of tests of existing pathogens and our response to emerging pathogens and potential health threats.”

During the first wave of the pandemic in the U.S., Roche scored the FDA’s first green light for a commercially developed coronavirus test, in March 2020—an emergency authorization that the agency granted within 24 hours of receiving the company’s completed application. Shortly after, Roche said it had started shipping 400,000 molecular diagnostic kits per week across the country.

Over their shared history, Roche and TIB Molbiol have collaborated on earlier SARS outbreaks, as well as on MERS, Ebola, Zika, anthrax, swine flu and bird flu, and most recently on the novel coronavirus’s new variants.

Under the deal, Roche will acquire all of the company’s outstanding shares, with the transaction expected to close before the end of the year; the financial details were not disclosed.

Earlier this year, Roche signed a $1.8 billion cash deal to build out its infectious disease portfolio with the acquisition of GenMark Diagnostics and its molecular tests designed to screen patients for multiple pathogens at once—including not only respiratory bugs such as COVID-19, but bloodstream infections as well.

TIB Molbiol, meanwhile, also manufactures diagnostic reagents and custom oligonucleotides, plus modular assays for inherited genetic diseases, somatic mutations and organ transplants.