Roche's COVID-19 diagnostics boosted 2020 sales despite other testing losses

Roche cobas analyzer
The molecular diagnostics segment served as Roche's main contributor to growth, bringing in about $4.16 billion or an increase of more than 90% over 2019 at constant exchange rates. (Roche)

Roche’s diagnostics division saw its sales grow 14% over the full year of 2020—totaling over 13.8 billion Swiss francs, or about $15.3 billion—with demand for COVID-19 testing more than outweighing its losses due to clinic lockdowns and deferred health screenings.

The company launched 15 different tests for COVID-19 over the past year, including both rapid, point-of-care solutions and high-throughput, centralized laboratory diagnostics across each type of test, including antigen-, antibody- and molecular-based methods. Other tests worked to gauge the potential severity of a person’s immune response to the virus.

As a whole, the division’s sales were up 28% for last year’s fourth quarter alone.

“We developed in record time a comprehensive portfolio of diagnostic solutions and entered new partnerships to develop and produce effective COVID-19 medicines,” Roche CEO Severin Schwan, Ph.D., said. “Based on our rejuvenated portfolio and the significant progress made in developing our product pipeline, Roche is strongly positioned for future growth.”

RELATED: FDA grants Roche coronavirus test emergency green light within 24 hours

The molecular diagnostics segment served as its main contributor to growth, bringing in about $4.16 billion or an increase of more than 90% over 2019 at constant exchange rates.

Elsewhere, the company’s centralized and point-of-care operations saw 2020 sales drop by 1%, with its immuno-diagnostics business dented by declines in routine testing due to COVID-19.

RELATED: Roche announces high-throughput antigen lab test, completing its set of COVID-19 diagnostics

Those impacts were particularly felt in China, where sales were not offset as much as they were in North America, Europe, the Middle East and Africa by rapid coronavirus tests and products for other biotech manufacturers, according to Roche. 

The past year also saw the company deliver and install more than 1,000 of its high-throughput cobas 6800/8800 lab instruments, nearly twice the number projected for 2020. 

Additionally, Roche said it hired 1,000 new staff worldwide to help increase its production capacity—and the drugmaker has committed more than $880 million in investments to expand its supply chain for COVID-19 tests and related medicines.