Roche lays out plans for Ventana

Earlier this week, Roche's CEO, Severin Schwan (photo), announced the company's plans for Ventana Medical Systems at a luncheon held in Oro Valley, Arizona. According to a report in the Arizona Daily Star, changes include adding roughly 250 employees over the next year, bringing the company's staff to about 1,000. In addition, Oro Valley-based Ventana has purchased 17.1 acres for $8.9 million to expand its campus. Ventana will expand its research and development facilities, as well as house the headquarters of one of Roche's global diagnostics business units. According to Ventana CEO Chris Gleeson (photo), Roche will invest $100 million in the diagnostics company in 2009, which is more than twice what Ventana spent last year.

Ventana creates diagnostic technologies that automate the process for examining human tissue, determining effective treatments for cancer and other infectious diseases and evaluating drug safety. "The combination of drugs and diagnostics will get much more important as we progress," Schwan said. He offered the example of Ventana's HER2 diagnostic test, which is used to determine which patients would be best suited for Genentech's Herceptin. The breast cancer drug Herceptin is highly effective in 20 to 30 percent of patients, according to Schwan. Considered a blockbuster, Herceptin brings in yearly sales of $1.2 billion for Genentech and Roche.

Despite holdouts, Roche was able to acquire over 70 percent of the Ventana's shares with a tender offer of $89.50 per share earlier this year. The acquisition was completed in February. Roche has also offered a buyout to Genentech, but has not been successfully thus far.

Current Ventana CEO Chris Gleeson will be retiring this year. He will be replaced by COO Hany Massarany, who has worked for the company for 10 years.

- check out the Arizona Daily Star article for more