Roche urges Illumina shareholders to revolt

Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche appealed on Wednesday to shareholders of US gene mapper Illumina to accept its $6.55 billion takeover bid, and called on them to vote its nominees onto the US firm's board.

Roche urges Illumina shareholders to revolt

The move to put pressure on Illumina’s board during its upcoming April 18th annual general meeting came after the US group’s management rejected the revised offer from Roche of $51 that bettered its original bid of $44.50 by 15 percent.

In its letter to the US firm’s shareholders, Roche said that the Illumina board has “continually made a number of qualitative statements regarding the potentially large market for its products in emerging markets and industrial end-markets.”

“However, the company has yet to produce any quantifiable evidence or projections to reassure shareholders when or how this growth will be realised,” it asserted.

“Tender your shares into our offer and vote for Roche’s independent director nominees and other proposals at the 2012 Illumina annual meeting,” appealed Roche.

The Basel-based pharma giant first launched its bid for Illumina on January 25th.

But the US provider of integrated systems for DNA sequencing had opposed the hostile move saying Roche’s offer price was too low and “does not reflect Illumina’s unique leadership position, business performance and future prospects.”

As a result, take up of the previous offer had been minimal. On March 26th, Roche said it had received shares worth just about $6.4 million.

The Swiss group therefore raised its offer on March 29th, which was rebuffed by Illumina’s board on April 2nd.

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Swiss-American antibody drug ‘effective at preventing Covid infection’

US biotech firm Regeneron and its Swiss partner Roche unveiled promising clinical trial results Monday indicating that an antibody treatment used to treat Covid-19 patients also helps prevent infections.

Swiss-American antibody drug 'effective at preventing Covid infection'
Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

The results of the Phase 3 trial showed that the combination of the antibodies casirivimab and imdevimab dramatically reduced the risk of symptomatic infection among people living with Covid-19 patients, Roche said in a statement.

The trial entailed injecting 1,505 people not infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus but living in households with people carrying the virus with the Regeneron antibody cocktail or a placebo.

READ MORE: Why are vaccination appointments still vacant in Zurich?

The trial, which was conducted in cooperation with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, showed that those who received the antibody cocktail saw their risk of symptomatic infection reduced by 81 percent, the companies said.

It also indicated that those treated with casirivimab and imdevimab who did experience symptomatic infection on average saw their symptoms clear within one week — far faster than the three-week average for those who received the placebo.

In a separate part of the study, 204 people who had recently tested positive for Covid-19 but showed no symptoms received either a dose of the antibody cocktail or a placebo.

Those who received the cocktail saw their risk of developing symptoms reduced by 31 percent compared to the placebo group, the companies said.

“Today’s data confirm the potential dual value of casirivimab and imdevimab to reduce household Covid-19 infections and to decrease the disease burden in those who do become infected, when given as a subcutaneous option,” Levi Garraway, Roche’s chief medical officer said in a statement.

“Although vaccinations are increasing globally, there remains a critical unmet need worldwide to prevent infections and provide immediate protection from Covid-19 between close contacts,” he said.

EXPLAINED: How Switzerland is speeding up its vaccination programme

Regeneron president and chief scientist George Yancopoulos agreed, pointing out that in the United States alone, 60,000 people are being diagnosed with Covid-19 every day.

The antibody cocktail “may help provide immediate protection to unvaccinated people who are exposed to the virus”, he said in a statement, adding that it could also potentially “provide ongoing protection for immunocompromised patients who may not respond well to vaccines”.

Regeneron said it would present the data to the US Food and Drug Administration and request it clear the Covid antibody cocktail for use as a preventative treatment.

The companies said they would share the new data with health regulators worldwide.