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Roche Inks Deal for Genia Technologies

NEW YORK (The Deal) -- Switzerland's Roche Holding on Monday agreed to buy Genia Technologies in hopes the target's genetic sequencing technology may dramatically lower the price of identifying DNA while speeding sequencing.

Roche, of Basel, said it would pay $125 million up front and as much as an additional $225 million depending on how Genia's chip-based technology develops.

"The acquisition of Genia is a further step for Roche to introduce a potentially disruptive technology to the market. The addition of Genia's single molecule semiconductor DNA sequencing platform using nanopore technology strengthens our next generation sequencing pipeline," said Roland Diggelmann, chief operating officer of Roche Diagnostics, in a statement.

Genia was founded in 2009 and is working to develop a handheld gene sequencer that will allow doctors to swiftly identify DNA. One potential use could be to quickly identify a malady affecting a patient by its DNA. Once correctly diagnosed, doctors can better treat the illness.

After its founding, the target, based in Mountain View, Calif., has had just one fundraising. It reportedly brought in $10 million two years ago from Life Technologies, which was acquired by Thermo Fisher Scientific  (TMO) early this year.

Genia, together with Harvard and Columbia universities, last September also won a $5.25 million research grant to help develop the technology.

It's the second sequencing-related deal this year for Roche. In February it entered a licensing agreement for detecting multi-drug resistant gram-negative bacteria using British biotech Discuva Ltd.'s discovery and development platform. Cambridge, England-based Discuva will get a $16 million upfront payment from the Swiss drugs giant.

In that deal, Roche also agreed to cover research fees and milestones for multiple programs of up to $175 million per product. The platform uses an advanced, next-generation sequencing and bioinformatics technology that leverages unique bacterial transposon libraries.

Roche shares gained 1.6%, or Sfr4.20, to Sfr267.70 ($298.34) in afternoon Zurich trading.

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