Stephen Foley: Lawyers fight it out with directors, and never mind the shareholders

US Outlook: As the late Steve Jobs faced up to his diagnosis of cancer and tried to face down the disease, he reached for the highest of hi-tech measures: he sequenced his entire DNA.

Our genetic make-up holds clues that can help us to understand the risks and the development of our diseases – cancer in particular, it seems – and therefore can help doctors to choose the drugs that have the best shot at working. It could not save the founder of Apple, but it has helped to shrink the tumours and lengthen the lives of many others.

The Apple founder was so optimistic about the technology, he told his biographer that he would be the first person to outrun pancreatic cancer, or among the last to die from it. But Mr Jobs was a visionary, always ahead of his time.

Desperate cancer patients of considerably less means than Mr Jobs are paying out of pocket to have their genes sequenced. Companies such as 23andme –which gets a lot of publicity because its founder is Anne Wojcicki, wife of Google founder Sergey Brin – are trying to popularise genetic testing for people interested in their ancestry as well as their health. The technology is getting closer and closer to the doctor's surgery, and private health insurers in the US are under increasing pressure to fund more uses for gene sequencing.

So you didn't need to be a Jobsian visionary to foresee a takeover battle for the San Diego gene sequencing company Illumina. That battle finally broke out this week, when Roche, the Swiss pharmaceuticals giant, launched a $5.7bn hostile bid for the company.

I wouldn't expect a quick resolution to this one. Illumina hasn't just rejected the offer, it has also installed a poison pill defence so that any stakebuilding by Roche will be offset by the issue of massive amounts of new stock. Outrageous as they may be, poison pills are still legal in the US.

On the other side, class action lawyers are rounding up shareholders for a legal action against the Illumina board, accusing directors of self-servingly rejecting a premium offer just so they can keep their jobs. Yes, this the US: it's directors vs lawyers, and sod what the shareholder wants.

Illumina shareholders have been wobbling on their commitment to the company. For the moment, the bulk of its business is selling machines and associated supplies to universities and research hospitals, since the bulk of sequencing work is still at the research level rather than for personal diagnostics. That will change in time, but until then the company is suffering from the squeeze on budgets in the public sector.

That is why Severin Schwan, Roche's chief executive, has pounced now. Roche and Illumina are ideal partners for the long run. Roche has been a pioneer in personalised medicine, because it has both a drug development and a diagnostic testing business. As the maker of some of the world's most successful cancer drugs, including Avastin and Herceptin, it has more expertise on this subject than any company, while its diagnostics division has the salesforce to push future generations of Illumina products. In other words, it can afford more than the 18 per cent premium it is offering to Illumina's depressed December share price.

Mr Schwan should pay up. That is what a visionary would do.

Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal
peopleThreats follows actress' speech on feminism and equality at the UN
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Worldwide ticket sales for The Lion King musical surpassed $6.2bn ($3.8bn) this summer
tvMusical is biggest grossing show or film in history
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Trainee / Experienced Recruitment Consultants

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Soho

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40000: SThree: As a Recruitment Consultant, y...

Trainee Recruitment Consultants - Banking & Finance

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Quantitative Risk Manager

Up to £80000: Saxton Leigh: My client, a large commodities broker, is looking ...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits