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Roche to buy Flatiron Health for $1.9 billion to expand cancer care portfolio

The logo of Swiss drugmaker Roche is seen at its headquarters in Basel, Switzerland February 1, 2018. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

(Reuters) - Swiss drugmaker Roche Holding AG (:ROG.S) said on Thursday it would buy the rest of U.S. cancer data company Flatiron Health for $1.9 billion to speed development of cancer medicines and support its efforts to price them based on how well they work.

Privately held Flatiron, backed by Alphabet Inc (NasdaqGS:GOOGL - News), taps into data on individual cancer cases to help doctors select promising approaches for their patients.

It also stores billing data, doctors' notes and related information. (

Roche currently owns 12.6 percent of Flatiron.

In 2016, Roche led a $175 million investment into Flatiron, in part to help the Swiss company harness the deluge of still-underutilized data collected from cancer patients with the New York City-based company's products.

Roche has said Flatiron algorithms will improve not only its research and trials, but also buttress its arguments during head-to-head price talks with payers as new combinations of its expensive therapies hit the market. (

"It gives us better insights into the potential for our products," Roche's head of pricing Jens Grueger told Reuters in a 2016 interview.

"But it also creates flexibility in how we can create value contracts in the future."

Roche has made a number of bolt-on acquisitions in recent months, including in December when it said it would buy U.S. cancer drug specialist Ignyta Inc for $1.7 billion in a deal to broaden its oncology portfolio.

In 2014, Google Ventures led a $130 million investment in Flatiron as healthcare had become a hot area for venture capital, especially companies related to health, data and software. (

Roche and Flatiron expect the deal to close in the first half of 2018, after which the latter will continue its operations as a separate entity.

Allen & Company LLC is the financial adviser to Flatiron Health and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati is its legal counsel. Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP is acting as legal counsel to Roche.

(Reporting by Akankshita Mukhopadhyay in Bengaluru and John Miller in Zurich; Editing by Arun Koyyur and Lisa Shumaker)