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Roche Acquires Sequencing Company Stratos Genomics

NEW YORK – Roche said on Friday that it has acquired Seattle-based early-stage sequencing technology firm Stratos Genomics for an undisclosed amount in a bid to advance development of Roche's nanopore sequencer.

Roche said it plans to use Stratos' Sequencing by Expansion (SBX) chemistry, which converts DNA into so-called Xpandomers prior to analysis by a nanopore detector and is still in development, to create an "end-to-end sequencing solution starting from a patient sample to a diagnostic result." The sequencer will combine electronic and biological components to sequence DNA for clinical diagnostic testing, the company said in a statement. 

Once fully developed, the SBX chemistry will enable "multiple targeted clinical applications as well as whole-exome and whole-genome sequencing," Roche said.

Roche has been working on a nanopore sequencing platform since it acquired Mountain View, California-based Genia for $350 million in 2014 but has provided few details about its progress and has not commercialized a sequencing platform yet. 

Financial and other details of the Stratos deal were not disclosed. Roche said Stratos will continue its operations in Seattle.

In 2018, Stratos Genomics raised $20 million in venture capital to further develop its SBX technology. 

In 2014, Roche invested $5 million in the company to develop the SBX chemistry, citing synergies with its recent Genia acquisition, with an additional $10 million up for grabs if Stratos reached certain technical milestones, which it later did.  

Roche has had a long and checkered past with acquisitions and partnerships in the DNA sequencing technology space. This includes a collaboration with Pacific Biosciences to develop a clinical diagnostic sequencing platform that ended in 2017, a failed hostile takeover bid for Illumina in 2012, and the acquisition of 454 Life Sciences in 2007, a technology Roche discontinued several years later.   

Earlier this year, Roche and Illumina partnered to develop and distribute in vitro diagnostic tests on Illumina's sequencing systems, including its NextSeq 550Dx System. One aspect of the partnership will focus on decentralizing the FoundationOne NGS assay from Roche's Foundation Medicine by leveraging Illumina's installed base of sequencers.