About Hoffmann-La Roche Inc.
One of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies, Roche operates two segments -- pharmaceuticals and diagnostics -- and sells its products in some 190 countries. Roche's prescription drugs include cancer therapies MabThera/Rituxan and Avastin, Perjeta and Kadcyla for HER2-positive breast cancer, hepatitis drug Pegasys, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis drug Esbriet, macular degeneration therapy Lucentis, and Tamiflu, which is used to prevent and treat influenza (including pandemic strains). The company markets many of its bestsellers through California-based subsidiary Genentech and Japanese affiliate Chugai Pharmaceutical. Roche's diagnostics arm offers clinical lab supplies, genetic tests, diabetes monitoring supplies, and point-of-care diagnostics for health care providers. Roche records among the world's highest pharmaceutical R&D spend annually.
Roche's pharmaceuticals division accounts for more than 75% of annual revenue, with oncology drugs making the largest sales contribution. It is also active in neuroscience, infectious diseases, immunology, haematology, opthalmology, and respiratory science.
The smaller, yet faster-growing diagnostics segment is a leading maker of in vitro (test tube) clinical diagnostic tests through its professional diagnostics segment; it is also an established provider of diabetes tests and glucose monitors.
Roche generates around 45% of its annual sales in North America and some 25% in Europe. Roche has three independent R&D teams in Switzerland, California, and Japan.
The largest geographic markets for Roche's pharma segment are the US and Western Europe. The company also has a solid stance in the Japanese drug market through its 61.5% stake in Chugai Pharmaceutical, and it is experiencing growth in Latin America and Asia.
In the Asia/Pacific region, Roche's SPHERE (Scientific Partnership for HER2Testing Excellence) program helps to improve awareness and tests and treats breast and gastric cancers. It operates in a dozen markets: Bangladesh, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Sales and Marketing
Roche's product marketing efforts in the US are conducted through its main US subsidiary, Genentech, which is one of the world's largest biotech companies.
Note: Growth rates may vary after conversion to US Dollars.
In 2017 Roche grew its sales 6% to CHF 55.7 billion thanks to the successful launch of medicines Ocrevus, Tecentriq, and Alecensa, partially offset by lower sales of Avastin (due to competitive pressures), Tamiflu (generic competition), and MabThera/Rituxan (the entry of biosimilars in Europe). The Diagnostics division also grew 5%, led by immunodiagnostics.
Net income declined 9% to CHF due to impairment charges on the Esbriet product intangible asset (CHF 1.7 billion) and the Diagnostics sequencing business (CHF 0.8 billion).
Roche's cash position increased by CHF 556 million during 2017, ended the year at CHF 4.7 billion. It generated a healthy CHF 18.0 billion in cash from operations, which it put towards purchases of property, plant, and equipment, money market instruments, and dividends.
In order to expand its pharmaceutical product offerings and stave off revenue losses from patent expirations and other competitive pressures, Roche invests heavily in internal research and development programs to expand its pipeline of small-molecule and biotechnology drug candidates. The company is under considerable time pressure as patents of stalwart drugs Rituxan, Avastin, and Herceptin -- worth $20 billion annually in sales -- approach expiry.
It comes as welcome news, then, that multiple sclerosis drug Ocrevus, which launched in 2017, passed the CHF 1 billion sales milestone in just one year. The result prompted Roche's CEO to declare it the most successful launch in the company's history. It also launched lung cancer treatments Alecensa and Tecentriq.
Roche has more than 100 drugs in clinical development stages, the bulk of which aim to treat oncology, cardiovascular, metabolic, viral, inflammatory, autoimmune, and central nervous system disorders. In 2017 the company invested CHF 10.4 billion in core R&D (representing 20% of sales).
Promising developments include risdiplam, a treatment for spinal muscular atrophy, an often-fatal degenerative disease that affects around 1 in 11,000 infants. Risdiplam has been fast-tracked by the European Medicines Agency under its PRIME program that aims to hasten the development of drugs that show potential for significantly improving on current treatments.
Roche also pursues acquisitions and site expansions, and in 2017 made investments in manufacturing plant in the US, Germany, and Japan. It also carried out site developments in Basel and Kaiseraugst, Switzerland, and San Francisco, US.
Mergers and Acquisitions
Acquisitions are also key elements in Roche's R&D growth strategy, and have expanded its pharmaceutical segment in focused therapeutic areas. For example, in early 2018, Roche agreed to buy US-based drug developer Ignyta for some $1.7 billion. That purchase will give the company access to Ignyta's investigational tumor medicine entrectinib, further growing Roche's oncology portfolio.
Also in 2018, Roche acquired oncology data firm Flatiron for $1.9 billion. Flatiron has links to more than 250 cancer practices, which should help Roche with its clinical trials.
Later that year, the company agreed to buy the rest of Foundation Medicine it doesn't already own for $2.4 billion. Foundation Medicine makes the FoundationOne Cancer test.
Roche also bought Tusk Therapeutics for $81 million in 2018. That purchase gave Roche control of an anti-CD25 antibody which is being studied for its ability to control solid tumors.
Roche can trace a direct line back to the foundation in 1896 of F.Hoffmann-La Roche & Co by entrepreneur Fritz Hoffman-La Roche. Pharmacist Carl Schaerges, the first head of research, together with chemist Emil C. Barell, demonstrated the presence of iodine in thyroid extracts. This results in Roche’s first patent and scientific publications. The company became the first to synthetic vitamin C on a mass scale in 1934, and in 1957 developed the benzodiazepines class of tranquilizers. Over the years, Roche has expanded in Switzerland and abroad by making numerous acquisitions, including Genentech in the US for a whopping $46.8 billion.
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