Of bonds and benefits

None of us are as good as all of us - so goes a Japanese proverb, lived out in a pair of Roche partnerships: with Hitachi in Diagnostics and Chugai in Pharma. In both cases, the partners have teamed up to do more than they could have on their own; their strengths are complementary. In the first, Hitachi’s expertise in automation is combined with Roche’s extensive range of easy-to-use tests. In the second, the magic has been Roche’s heavyweight product portfolio coupled with Chugai’s inside access to Japan, the world’s second-largest pharma market after the United States.

Taken together, these partnerships have notched approximately 50 years of cooperation – and counting.

Multi-channel revolution

Hitachi’s match dates back to the late 1970s, when it gave exclusive distribution rights to Boehringer Mannheim (acquired in 1998 by Roche) for the world’s first multi-channel analyser. “Before that, the only diagnostics on the market were single-channel systems that could only run one test at a time,” notes Dietmar Kappelhoff, Lifecycle Leader, High/mid Volume Solutions, CPS. “Multi-channel revolutionised diagnostics, because users suddenly could use one machine to do several tests in parallel.”

The team went on to pioneer Roche’s entry into immunological diagnostics in the early 1990s and, later that decade, modularity. “Diagnostics used to come in a one-size-fits-all box,” recalls Kappelhoff. “We changed that – to a configurable selection of modules.” The crowning glory to that trend now bears the name of cobas.

Crucial to Roche-Hitachi’s success has been true collaboration. “Hitachi is not just a supplier to us, we don’t simply hand them a specification,” Kappelhoff stresses. “We plan, work and go to market together, and both of us are the best in our respective businesses.” This, he adds, explains the partnership’s longevity. “Why change a winning team? Any other partner – for either of us – would be second best.”

A fruitful pairing

Chugai’s decade-long bond to Roche is younger than Hitachi’s, but no less fruitful. Mingling their fortunes turned out to be the best choice for both parties. The partnership gives Roche an entree to Japan and it has seriously boosted Chugai’s growth. There is a bonus, too. As world leaders in large-molecule R&D, Roche and Chugai are also technical peers. The best evidence of that came with the approval and launch of Actemra/RoActemra for rheumatoid arthritis: discovered by Chugai, then developed and marketed together with Roche.

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