Roche buys breast cancer specialist Seragon for $1.7 billion

July 2, 2014, 9:11 AM UTC

Swiss giant Roche Holding AG (RHHBY) said its biotech unit Genentech has agreed to buy privately-held U.S. biotech company Seragon Pharmaceuticals for up to $1.725 billion, in the latest episode of the deal-making bonanza for the pharma and healthcare sector.

Roche will pay $725 million in cash immediately, and another $1 billion depending on the success of Seragon’s product pipeline, which focuses on a next generation of treatments for breast cancer, based on “selective estrogen receptor degraders”.

Over half of breast cancers depend on the hormone estrogen and the estrogen receptor to grow and spread. Seragon’s lead product, which is currently in Phase 1 clinical trials, includes an agent designed to eliminate the estrogen receptor from cells, helping to contain the cancer.

“This year, breast cancer will claim the lives of nearly 40,000 women in the United States, and up to half of these women will have a disease that is driven by the estrogen receptor,” said Richard Scheller, Ph.D., Executive Vice President and Head of Genentech Research and Early Development. “We believe these investigational oral SERDs could one day redefine the standard of care for hormone receptor-positive breast cancer.”

Seragon was spun off from Aragon Pharmaceuticals last year when it was bought by Johnson & Johnson Inc.(JNJ)

It’s the Swiss company’s third–and biggest–acquisition in the U.S. this year, following the purchase of Marlborough, Mass.-based IQuum Inc., a specialists in molecular diagnostics, for up to $450 million in April and Mountain View, CA-based gene sequencer Genia Technologies Inc. for up to $350 million at the start of June.

The company has returned to the acquisition trail after taking nearly five years to digest the debt-financed acquisition of Genentech for $47 billion in 2009.

Roche shares were higher early Wednesday in Europe in response to the news, rising 0.6%.