Spurned by Illumina, Roche may be eyeing universities for gene-sequencing tech

Roche ($RHHBY) is bound and determined to boost its presence in the molecular diagnostics business. Days after giving up on its $6.7 billion hostile bid for Illumina ($ILMN), the Swiss company may be shopping for intellectual property at three universities in its push to acquire gene-sequencing technology, a European newspaper is reporting.

Der Sonntag reported the news over the weekend without citing its sources, according to a Reuters article summarizing the original story. If the story is to be believed, Roche is eyeing gene-sequencing technology from "the research centers of three large universities," although we don't know which ones. (Start guessing.) Additionally, Roche is apparently working on two gene-sequencing projects of its own, including one with IBM, Roche Chairman Franz Humer said in the Der Sonntag story, Reuters explains.

Roche also may not abandon the M&A route. Der Sonntag cites Oxford Nanopore, which is similar to Illumina, as a potential target, according to the Reuters report. Roche has a positive relationship with that company.

Less than a week ago, Roche decided not to expand its bid for Illumina past April 20. Like a spurned suitor who insists that there are many other fish in the sea, the company emphasized in a statement that it will keep looking at other options "to expand its diagnostics leadership position." Acquiring tech at the university level could certainly be an easier (and cheaper) option than trying to buy a whole company that's not interested in the overture. And a friendly corporate acquisition could be a welcome change of pace from the free-for-all the failed Illumina bid turned into. Assuming that the Der Sonntag article is true, this story's next chapter will likely be written soon.

- here's the Reuters story