Before merging into Chiron Corp., Cetus Corp. will sell its PCRtechnology to its partner Hoffmann-La Roche for $300 millionand dissolve a relationship with another partner, Perkin-ElmerCorp.

Polymerase chain reaction, the technique of amplifying bits ofDNA that was invented by a Cetus scientist in 1985, has foundits way into courtrooms and clinics, gene labs andarchaeological digs. "We haven't (even) begun to realize itsapplications," Roche spokeswoman Paula Frakes told BioWorld.

She estimated that the market for PCR-related technologyshould exceed $500 million by 1995. For its fiscal year endedJune 30, Cetus' PCR division had revenues of $20.9 million andnet income of $6.3 million.

When the sale is concluded, domestic assets of Cetus' PCRdivision will go to Hoffmann-La Roche Inc. of Nutley, N.J., andnon-U.S. assets to F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd. of Switzerland.

Sales royalties will be paid to Cetus, provided Roche's PCRsales achieve an undisclosed level. The royalties include up to$30 million in present value on currently known applicationsof PCR technology.

Perkin-Elmer of Norwalk, Conn., and Cetus will dissolve theirPCR joint venture, called PECI, which is 51 percent owned byPerkin-Elmer and 49 percent owned by Cetus.

Under a new agreement with Roche, Perkin-Elmer will retainexclusive rights to develop and market worldwide its PCRinstruments and the Roche PCR reagents it uses for industryand research.

Roche will continue to develop and commercialize all PCRapplications for in vitro human and animal diagnostics.

Roche intends to consolidate the PCR business in a centrallymanaged unit in the United States, in which Perkin-Elmer willhave a preferred equity position, which is confidential, saidPerkin-Elmer spokeswoman Julianne Grace.

Roche will also own all technical, patent and manufacturingrights to all fields of use for PCR owned by Cetus. The twocompanies started a collaboration in 1989, with Roche fundingmost of the work to develop and commercialize humandiagnostics in exchange for a license to be the exclusiveworldwide supplier of PCR-based DNA probe kits and clinicallab services.

Roche Biomedical Laboratories launched a PCR-based AIDSdiagnostic test in 1990, followed this year by a test for HTLV1-2 and one for paternity testing. A test for Lyme disease isexpected this year, the company said. In vitro diagnostics forAIDS and chlamydia, as well as the use of PCR in cancertesting, are set for marketing in the next few years.

Roche entered into agreements in March and May withSmithKline Beecham Clinical Laboratories and MediGene Inc.,respectively, to perform in vitro PCR laboratory testing.

-- Roberta Friedman, Ph.D. Special to BioWorld

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.