F Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd Medical Company , Roche was one of the first companies to bring targeted treatments to patients. With their combined strength in pharmaceuticals and diagnostics, they are better equipped than any other company to further drive personalized healthcare. Two-thirds of their Research and Development projects are being developed with companion diagnostics.
Roche is the world’s number 1 in biotech with 17 biopharmaceuticals on the market. Over half of the compounds in their product pipeline are biopharmaceuticals, enabling them to deliver better-targeted therapies.
Roche has been at the forefront of cancer research and treatment for over 50 years, with medicines for breast, skin, colon, ovarian, lung and numerous other cancers.
Roche offers doctors profound information to guide treatments and to answer more patients’ questions than any other company. And their tests enable hospitals and labs to deliver that information quickly and reliably.
Roche invests around 9 billion Swiss francs in Research and Development every year because innovation is our lifeblood. This is amongst the highest Research and Development spends in the world across all industries.
Roche is a force of over 90,000 people working together across more than 100 countries. Roche is consistently ranked as an employer of choice by its employees and by external institutions.
F Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd Medical Company History
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F. Hoffmann-La Roche & Co. was founded at a time when the industrial revolution was changing the face of Europe. On October 1, 1896, at the age of 28, Fritz Hoffmann-La Roche launched his company as the successor company to Hoffmann, Traub & Co in Basel, Switzerland. He was among the first to recognize that the industrial manufacture of medicines would be a major advance in the fight against the disease. Since then, Roche has grown into one of the world’s leading healthcare companies.
Pharmacist Carl Schaerges, the first head of research, together with chemist Emil C. Barell demonstrate the presence of iodine in thyroid extracts. This results in Roche’s first patent and scientific publications. The launch of Aiodin marks the earliest in a series of thyroid preparations by Roche.
Roche soon expands its business activities. From 1897 to 1910, the factory in Grenzach, Germany, is enlarged and the lion’s share of manufacturing moves there. Fritz Hoffmann-La Roche and his new partner Carl Meerwein waste little time in building a network of European and overseas agents and subsidiaries. By 1914 Roche has offices in Milan, New York, St. Petersburg, and London, among others.
Roche produces a non-prescription cough syrup containing its own active ingredient, Thiokol. The orange-flavored syrup is an almost immediate success. Launched under the trademark Sirloin in 1898, the syrup remains on the market for over 60 years.
The First World War has devastating repercussions for Roche. The German boycott of its products, Basel’s isolation from its plant in Grenzach, Germany, the loss of the company’s Russian market and assets in the revolution of 1917, and sizeable foreign exchange losses combine to create a financial crisis. In response, Roche is transformed legally into a limited company. Additionally, Roche bemoans the death of founding the father and visionary Fritz Hoffmann in 1920. A glimmer of hope arises with the classic study by Markus Guggenheim of biogenic amines, which enhances Roche’s standing in the scientific community.
Founding father Fritz Hoffmann dies of kidney disease on 18 April 1920, depriving Roche of a dynamic entrepreneur and a striking individual. “At every step it was [Fritz Hoffmann] who determined the company’s direction, guiding it to bigger and better things with his vision, restless energy, infectious spontaneity, and indomitable optimism,” said Emil C. Barell in a eulogy for Hoffmann. Barrel becomes the new Chief Executive.
Roche managed to overcome the crisis under the leadership of chairman Emil C. Barell. The company experienced an unexpected upsurge spurred by its vitamin production, which made the return to former prosperity possible. Roche is able to expand once more and starts its strong commitment to the US-American market with first investments in New York and Nutley.
Roche outgrows its New York offices, prompting the development of a new plant in Nutley to manufacture a wide range of products. Soon after the move to Nutley in 1929, the list of products manufactured locally includes barbiturates such as Allonal.
Vitamin output increases and new production locations strengthen Roche’s position as one of the main producers of vitamins. To avoid a strong dependency on vitamins, Roche intensifies pharmaceutical research. Between the early 1950s and mid-1960s pharmaceutical research is extremely diverse, with a portfolio of pharmaceuticals ranging from antidepressants and antimicrobials to agents for cancer chemotherapy. During this period, Roche’s researchers discover a compound of the benzodiazepine class that sedates without causing drowsiness.
In 1945 Roche establishes Pantene Corporation and affiliate cosmetic companies. The companies employ 4,000 – 1,200 alone in Basel and 2,000 in Nutley, USA.
Propelled by the success of the benzodiazepines, Roche diversifies across the entire spectrum of healthcare. In Switzerland and the United States, bioelectronics departments are set up to develop electronic medical instruments. Rocom and Medicovision are the company’s forays into medical publishing. The acquisition of Dr. R. Maag AG, a plant protection company, reflects Roche’s growing involvement in agrochemicals. In Nutley, USA, a new diagnostics department is established.
This period also marks the start of Roche’s involvement in basic biomedical research. The company establishes the Roche Institute of Molecular Biology in Nutley, the Basel Institute for Immunology and the Nippon Research Center in Kamakura, Japan. A chemical accident at an Italian subsidiary is a major setback.
The creation in 1968 of a department for diagnostic products marks Roche’s entry into a new sector. Apart from developing new diagnostic tests and automatic analyzers, objectives include setting up service laboratories to perform clinical analyses for hospitals and office-based physicians.
Roche begins to tighten its organizational structure and moves towards creating separate business units. Additionally, corporate activities are consolidated through acquisitions and divestments. After the corporate realignment, Roche operates with four core business divisions: pharmaceuticals, vitamins and fine chemicals, diagnostics, and flavors and fragrances.
In 1980 at the Roche Institute of Molecular Biology, pure interferon alfa is isolated. Roche Nutley and Genentech, a biotech company based in South San Francisco, begin a joint project to produce a genetically engineered version of the substance.
Through its commitment to research and innovation, Roche continues to make steady advances in drug therapy that will replace more expansive treatments and shorten hospital stays.
Roche acquires the worldwide marketing rights to the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) from Cetus Corporation in 1991. Capable of detecting minute amounts of genetic material, the technique opens the way to developing diagnostic tests that are fast, sensitive and specific for a broad spectrum of medical and research uses.
Roche ranks among the world’s leading healthcare companies with its expertise in two core businesses – Diagnostics and Pharmaceuticals. Combined with its strength in biotechnology, the company paves the way to the future of healthcare with innovations in areas such as personalized healthcare.
To intensify its focus on healthcare, Roche divests two businesses: fragrances and flavors, and vitamins and fine chemicals. As a research-driven company committed to innovation, the Group’s Pharmaceuticals and Diagnostics Divisions supply products spanning the healthcare spectrum, from the early detection and prevention of disease to diagnosis and treatment. Combining the strengths and expertise of both divisions, Roche plays an increasingly important role in shaping the future of medicine by contributing to the personalized healthcare approach.
The increased focus on innovation and biotechnology lead to important advances in diagnostic techniques and medicines aimed at molecular targets. As a result, many diseases can be detected earlier and treated more specifically. The full integration with biotech pioneer Genentech in 2009 follows acquisitions of other key players in life science research, gene sequencing and tissue diagnostics. These strengthen Roche’s access to innovation and new technologies and drive its commitment to more targeted treatments that, ultimately, make personalized healthcare a reality.