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Toward a total solution
October 2015
by Ilene Schneider  |  Email the author
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BASEL, Switzerland—Biotech/pharma giant Roche has signed an agreement to acquire Kapa Biosystems Inc., a privately held company headquartered in Wilmington, Mass., as part of an effort to expand its next-generation sequencing (NGS) product line. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
 
Kapa Biosystems, a provider of genomic tools in the life-sciences sector, uses proprietary technologies to optimize enzymes for next-generation sequencing (NGS), as well as polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and real-time PCR applications. Kapa’s proprietary protein engineering technology is reportedly highly customizable and allows for the generation and screening of large numbers of enzyme variants. Tailored enzymes with improved performance for specific applications can be rapidly selected, expediting product development timelines, according to the company.
 
Kapa’s portfolio of NGS reagents includes enzymes such as novel DNA polymerases, with the potential to improve the performance of the entire sequencing workflow. The objective is to develop innovative solutions that accelerate genomics research that can impact the future ability to diagnose, monitor and treat cancer and complex inherited and infectious diseases.
 
Founded by Trey Foskett, Paul McEwan, Ron McEwan and Chris McGuinness in 2006, Kapa Biosystems uses what it calls “directed evolution” to develop reagents for life-sciences applications. Directed evolution, a method of protein engineering that simulates natural selection in the lab, starts with a gene coding for a “wild-type,” or unmodified, enzyme of interest. Random variation is introduced into the gene by mutagenesis, generating a library of millions of genes each coding for a unique enzyme variant. A functional selection pressure is then applied to the library, and only the genes coding for the highest performing enzymes “survive.” This process of random mutation and selection is repeated until the desired enzyme characteristic evolves.
 
“This acquisition builds on Roche’s commitment to develop a differentiated NGS portfolio that will provide our customers with a complete genetic testing solution,” according to Roland Diggelmann, chief operating officer of the Roche Diagnostics Division. “Kapa’s technology and products complement our current expertise and offerings such as the portfolio of target enrichment products for NGS. We welcome Kapa’s employees and are looking forward to strengthening our NGS offerings with this unique technology.”
 
In February, Roche acquired Signature Diagnostics, a privately held company based in Potsdam, Germany, to advance translational research for NGS diagnostics. Roche plans to leverage Signature’s expertise in biobanks and NGS assays to develop novel diagnostics for cancer patients. Signature is a translational oncology and genomics company that develops large blood plasma and tissue biobanks in multiple cancers, including colorectal and lung, which are constructed from multicenter prospective clinical studies. As Diggelmann explains, “Signature represents a unique bridge between high-value cancer biobanks and NGS assay development. Roche plans to leverage Signature’s expertise in both of these areas to accelerate the development of targeted NGS-based diagnostics in the future. Biobanks can also be used for biomarker discovery and hypothesis testing with pharma.”
 
Getting back to the current deal, Paul McEwan, co-founder and chief scientific officer of Kapa Biosystems, said in an official statement that “Joining Roche provides us access to their broad product portfolio, global reach and clinical expertise that will accelerate our strategy of offering comprehensive NGS workflow solutions to more laboratories around the world. We are also excited to have the opportunity to further leverage our enzyme engineering capabilities to advance the fields of genomics and sequencing, with the ultimate goal of having a more significant impact on medicine and human health.”
 
Roche, a leader in research-focused healthcare in pharmaceuticals and diagnostics, offers medicines in oncology, immunology, infectious diseases, ophthalmology and neuroscience. It cites itself as a world leader in in-vitro diagnostics and tissue-based cancer diagnostics and as a frontrunner in diabetes management.
 
Founded in 1896, Roche has been making important contributions to global health for more than a century. Twenty-nine medicines developed by Roche are included in the World Health Organization Model Lists of Essential Medicines, among them life-saving antibiotics, antimalarials and chemotherapy. Roche’s personalized healthcare strategy aims at providing medicines and diagnostics that enable tangible improvements in the health, quality of life and survival of patients. In 2014, the Roche Group employed 88,500 people worldwide, invested 8.9 billion Swiss francs in R&D and posted sales of 47.5 billion Swiss francs. Genentech, in the United States, is a wholly owned member of the Roche Group. Roche is also the majority shareholder in Chugai Pharmaceutical in Japan.
 
Code: E101527

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