Roche's Milestones

The founder of Roche, Fritz Hoffmann-La Roche, was a pioneering entrepreneur who was convinced that the future belonged to branded pharmaceutical products. He was among the first to recognise that the industrial manufacture of medicines would be a major advance in the fight against disease. Since then, Roche has grown into one of the world's leading healthcare companies. Navigate with the timeline through Roche's history.

1896 - 1914

Year of Foundation - First Successes


Year of Foundation - First Successes

Nine months after Fritz Hoffmann founded his company in Basel, the first factory for the manufacture of pharmaceuticals was built in Grenzach.

The pharmaceutical company C.F. Boehringer & Soehne was founded as early as 1859 and over the following decades, it developed into the largest quinine manufacturer in the world and became a pioneer in industrial pharmaceutical production. The Mannheim-based company was the nucleus of the Corange Group acquired by Roche in 1998.


Year of Foundation - First Successes

On 23 June 1897, the German subsidiary was entered in the Commercial Register in Lörrach. Seven employees initially worked on the company's first product, the wound antiseptic Airol.


First Heart Medicine

The introduction of Digalen, the first standardized heart drug made from the foxglove plant, not only achieved further commercial success but gained scientifically accepted recognition in the medical community.

1909 - 1911

The First Blockbuster

Pantopon, a preparation made from the entire range of alkaloids of the opium poppy and developed to treat seizures, pain and anxiety, faced great demand and was commercially available until 1985 (= 76 years).

Introduction of Jodostarin: an organic iodine preparation for treating thyroid disorders expanded the still modest product range.


The First Political Upheavals

By 1914, Grenzach had already grown into a major corporate production center with 70 blue- and white-collar workers. After the outbreak of the First World War, the ban on exports of chemical products interrupted supplies of the Group in Grenzach. Accordingly, production fell.

1915 - 1933

Time of Crisis


Pre-filled syringes (tubunics) allowed for more efficient application in the parenteral administration of sterile solutions and were in huge demand in the overflowing military hospitals during the war.


Obligation for Employees

In the rapid currency devaluation caused by hyperinflation, a record turnover of 469 trillion marks was reported. Roche paid its employees 12 to 20 Swiss francs per month to buy foodstuffs in Basel.

1928 - 1929

Time of Crisis

Sedormid, a bromine- and barbiturate-free sedative and soporific was introduced onto the market.

Foundation of the company's headquarters in Berlin.

1934 - 1945

Start of Vitamin Production


Start of Vitamin Production

The synthesizing process developed by Tadeusz Reichstein for the first time succeeded in manufacturing 50 kg of vitamin C per year.

This was followed by the synthesis of other water-soluble vitamins, i.e. B1, B2, and B6. The product Redoxon-C was launched onto the market to treat vitamin C deficiency.

1936 - 1939

Start of Industrial Vitamin C Production

At the end of the 1930s, the introduction of numerous vitamin preparations onto the market had made Roche a household name in Germany. Their products included Chinin-Redoxon (quinine and vitamin C), Ephynal (vitamin E), Synka-Vit (vitamin K), Beflavin (vitamin B2) and Benicot (nicotinamide = vitamin PP).

1940 - 1941

With a sizable product range and initially unaffected ability to procure raw materials, production was able to keep up with increasing demand for pharmaceuticals.

As the war progressed however, the company experienced supply bottlenecks due to lack of materials, the drafting of employees into the war effort and thus the unavoidable use of unskilled employees, including a number of forced laborers and even sometimes prisoners of war.

1942 - 1945

In August 1942, business administration moved from Berlin to Grenzach; the scientific department moved first to Freiburg and then, in September, also to Grenzach.

By September, the French High Command had already issued the authorization for operations to continue. The upturn in economic success during the second half of the century had begun.

1946 - 1959

The Upturn Begins

1947 - 1950

The Upturn Begins

The introduction of Gantrisin Roche, an easily soluble and well-tolerated sulfonamide, was an important breakthrough in the fight against infectious diseases.
In parallel with the development of Liquemin and Marcumar (1953) for the treatment of thromboembolic conditions, courses on blood coagulation were conducted with specialist doctors, establishing anti-coagulant therapy as a major factor in preventing heart attacks. Bepanthen Roche was registered and marketed in Germany as a wound healing ointment.


Rimifon was successfully introduced as a standard therapy for curing tuberculosis which was rife at that time.

At the same time, industrial vitamin B1 production was started.

1953 - 1959

The rapid business development resulting from the introduction of innovative medicines and the increasing demand for vitamins led to an increase in the number of employees to 900.

The premises had to be extended and the infrastructure developed.

Construction of new plants for the expansion of the vitamin C production to 10,000 tons.

1960 - 1971

Time of Expansion


With the introduction of benzodiazepines, the beginning of the sixties saw expansion into the field of psychotropic drugs. The very successful sales of Librium and Valium Roche subsequently led to a cartel investigation into market dominance. The case was decided in favor of Roche.

1961 - 1967

The first fully automated packaging line was introduced for pharmaceutical production meaning that, from that date onwards, the tablet columns no longer had to be rolled by hand.

Construction of a new boiler house. The plant was constructed based on the principle of cogeneration. In 1966, the extended boiler house was already producing a steam output of 150 t/h. Construction of buildings for the housing of workshops and technical departments.


Foundation of the Diagnostics business area.
Development and sales of systems for use in the field of diagnostics (reagents and instruments).

Start-up of production of ascorbyl palmitate, a fat-soluble compound of vitamin C.

1969 - 1971

Establishment of the training center to provide qualified training in pharmaceutical field services.

The experience gained with sulfonamides and the market introduction of the combination preparation Bactrim (sulfamethoxazole + trimethoprim) led to further improvements in the fight against infections of the respiratory tract and the genitourinary tract.

1971 - 1972

Laying of the foundation stone for the Boehringer Mannheim biochemical plant in Penzberg, Upper Bavaria.

This plant later developed into the largest biotechnological research, development and production center of the Roche Group
in Europe.

Start-up of production of ascorbyl palmitate, a fat-soluble compound of vitamin C.

1972 - 1985

Laying the Foundation Stone for Research

1973 - 1974

Introduction of Madopar for the treatment of Parkinson's disease

Introduction of Lexotanil, the first successful daytime sedative from the benzodiazepine range.

Following the production of vitamin C, which was already running at full speed, the construction of a large-scale plant for the manufacture of vitamin B1 was begun in the north of the factory complex in order to keep pace with growing demand.

1975 - 1977

Launch of the new vitamin B1 plant.

A new vitamin C production plant was started. Grenzach thus gained the largest production capacity worldwide.


The international stars Audrey Hepburn and Ben Gazzara mingle among the Mannheim workforce. Hollywood director Terence Young shoots key scenes for the film "Bloodline" in the production and research departments of the Boehringer Mannheim plant.

Launch of Rocaltrol to treat bone resorption, particularly in dialysis patients.

1979 - 1981

Roche Diagnostics launches Cobas Bio, the first analyzer for clinical laboratories fully developed by Roche.

The Haemo-Glukotest 20-800 from Boehringer Mannheim for measuring blood glucose concentrations between 20 and 800 mg/dL becomes the standard test for the exact visual determination of blood glucose levels.

1983 - 1984

In 1984, the first edition of the Roche Medical Dictionary is published. Now it is in its 4th edition and is also available on CD-ROM.

Reflolux, now known worldwide under the name Accu-Chek, is the first meter that enables diabetics to monitor their own blood glucose levels.

An enzyme-immunological test based on monoclonal antibodies for monitoring the treatment of certain cancers is launched by Roche Diagnostics.

1986 - 1997

Innovations on Innovations

1986 - 1987

Roche brings the first HIV test onto the market. Only five years after identification of the clinical picture of AIDS, reliable indirect evidence is produced for the presence of the virus that triggers the immune deficiency. The test detects the antibodies created to combat the virus.

Roferon®-A was the first purely genetically engineered drug to be developed and launched in Germany. The preparation contains alpha-interferon and it is effective against certain cancers and viral diseases (e.g. hepatitis).

1988 - 1989

The medical monitoring of the astronauts on MIR is carried out with Reflotron made by Roche Diagnostics.

The sale of non-prescription drugs, including Bepanthen Roche (wound healing) and Saridon (analgesic), is converged with the former eupharma GmbH in Eppstein. This facilitated entry into the hair-care sector (Priorin) and further expansion of the OTC business.
Neotigason supersedes Tigason for the treatment of psoriasis and keratosis.

1990 - 1992

Roche acquires worldwide rights for the marketing of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology from the Cetus Corporation, USA. The PCR further developed by Roche remains to this day the key technology in molecular diagnostics.

Introduction of Aurorix® for the treatment of depression and social phobia. Launch of Neupogen. The genetically engineered preparation is primarily used for the treatment of cancer as an adjuvant treatment for boosting the immune system.


The Diagnostics business area moves to new buildings in Grenzach and prepares for the marketing of innovative systems to complement the established instruments from the cobas range and the introduction of new technologies (PCR).
The new Accutrend meter becomes the flagship of the Accutrend range that will later revolutionize blood glucose analysis.
The Self-medication business area is expanded through acquisition of Nicholas (Rennie, Aspro) and the establishment of the Roche Nicholas Deutschland GmbH.

1994 - 1995

In addition to the oral antibiotic Globocef, the most important new products on the market this year include Hivid (AIDS) and Pulmozyme for the treatment of cystic fibrosis. Introduction of CellCept to combat transplant organ rejection.

Roche Diagnostics launches the first diagnostic tests based on PCR technology under the name Amplicor. CoaguChek facilitates the self-monitoring of blood coagulation values for patients with artificial heart valves, chronic atrial fibrillation and thrombophilia.


Market launch of Invirase, a protease inhibitor, which is successfully used in combination with already introduced drugs for the treatment of AIDS and is awarded the Prix Galien in 1999. Modernization of the large-scale plant for production of specialty pharmaceuticals and establishment of a zone concept.

Elecsys 2010, an analyzer for immunological diagnostics, is introduced. It is based on the principle of electrochemiluminescence (ECL), works very fast and is very sensitive.


100 Years of Roche in Germany

The companies celebrates its 100-year anniversary with a company ceremony and a party for employees. Important investments in the modernization of pharmaceutical production (zone concept) and commissioning of a new warehouse management system in the pharmaceutical sector.

The CARDIAC reader, which allows quantitative determination of key cardiac parameters within minutes, is introduced in Germany.

1998 - 2004

The Future Starts Here


Rituximab (MabThera®) is the first monoclonal antibody for cancer therapy in Europe to be approved for the treatment of relapsed follicular lymphoma.
The anti-obesity pill Xenical®, a localized fat blocker, is launched.

The LightCycler system sets new standards for rapid, real-time PCR analysis in the field of research. The introduction of innovative products for diabetes monitoring offers diabetics greater comfort, an improved treatment of diabetes and virtually painless testing.


With the acquisition of the Corange Group (Boehringer Mannheim and DePuy) on 5 March 1998, Roche Germany becomes one of the most important country organizations within the Roche Group. All German sites are incorporated under the umbrella of Roche Deutschland Holding GmbH with headquarters in Grenzach-Wyhlen.

Roche Diagnostics enters into a cooperation agreement with the Icelandic company deCODE for cooperation in the field of genetic research. Together, the hereditary causes of common diseases are to be examined and new standards introduced for the application of DNA diagnostics.


After more than three years reconstruction, the pharmaceutical production building of Hoffmann-La Roche AG, launched in 1968, is officially opened. The factory conversion cost a total of 34 million DM and was completed with no loss of production and no major operational disruptions or quality issues.
In addition, ointment production and packaging is significantly expanded at the Roche subsidiary in Grenzach. 35 million tubes are manufactured here in 1999, primarily Bepanthen products which are marketed worldwide.


Roche launches Herceptin® for the treatment of advanced stages of breast cancer.
In May, the new fermentation plant produces its first batch of vitamin B2, on time and on schedule. Also in August, the biotin plant is launched as planned and in October, Roche celebrates the completion of the new facilities with the local population.

The Rapid Translation System (RTS) from Roche Diagnostics is the world's first commercial system for the fully automated, cell-free synthesization of proteins.


In February, Roche launches Xeloda® for the treatment of colorectal cancer. In September, after an accelerated six-month trial, Xeloda® is approved for metastatic breast cancer in combination with the Aventis preparation Taxotere®.

In co-operation with Prionics, Roche Diagnostics launches onto the market a reliable test for detecting BSE pathogens.


Roche introduces the first oral neuraminidase inhibitor for the treatment of flu (influenza A and B). At the same time RealFlu, Roche's influenza early warning system, is introduced.
Rituximab (MabThera®) is approved for the first-line treatment of diffuse large B-cell non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

With the new development of the Modular Analytics SWA, Roche Diagnostics sets new standards in the field of laboratory diagnostics. Elecsys proBNP, the first commercially available, fully automated test for the diagnosis and therapeutic monitoring of chronic heart failure, is launched with great success.


Introduction of the first fusion inhibitor in AIDS/HIV therapy:
FUZEON inhibits the virus from accessing a healthy immune cell by preventing the merging of the virus membrane with the cell membrane. This effectively prevents further replication of the virus.

With the acquisition of the Swiss medical technology company Disetronic, the world's second largest manufacturer of insulin pumps, Roche Diagnostics completes another stage of its expansion of holistic diabetes management.


The fusion inhibitor Fuzeon (Enfuvirtide) was awarded the Prix Galien. This is the second time the Hoffmann-La Roche AG has received the coveted award for an HIV drug, confirming its high potential for innovation.

The AmpliChip CYP450 Test is introduced onto the European market. The world's first pharmacogenomic chip for clinical applications detects variations of genes that affect the efficacy of drugs.

2005 - 2008

Personalized Healthcare


After 30 years of research, the drug Avastin (Bevacizumab) was developed, which prevents the formation of new blood vessels and cuts off the supply of oxygen to tumors. Avastin is first used in the treatment of colorectal cancer.
Tarceva (Erlotinib) is Roche's first "growth inhibitor" for the treatment of the most common form of lung cancer, non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
Approval of Bonviva (ibandronate), the world's first monthly tablet for the treatment of osteoporosis in post-menopausal women to reduce the risk of vertebral fractures.


Roche Diagnostics launches the Genome Sequencer 20 system and the LightCycler 480. The Genome Sequencer 20 system enables researchers to sequence long DNA sections and genomes up to a hundred times faster than is possible with other commercially available systems.

The global logistics center in Mannheim is expanded. From here, Roche's subsidiaries and customers in 170 countries across the world are supplied with approximately 7,000 finished diagnostic products.


The B-cell-directed antibody MabThera (Rituximab) has been approved in Europe for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Rituximab approval was granted specifically for the treatment of adult patients with severe active rheumatoid arthritis who do not respond adequately to, or are unable to tolerate, other anti-rheumatic drugs, including any of the TNF-alpha inhibitors.


The LightCycler SeptiFast Test is a new PCR-based test for the early and rapid DNA detection of sepsis pathogens.
With the CoaguChek XS meter, Roche Diagnostics launches a new generation of coagulation monitors for self-management in the form of a particularly handy, easy-to-use and flexible instrument.
Using a single PCR-based test, i.e. the COBAS TaqScreen MPX Test, blood banks can test blood donations for multiple viruses at the same time, including HIV-1, HIV-2, and Hepatitis B and C.


The Biologics IV production plant is opened in Penzberg for the biotechnological production of the active substance Trastuzumab (Herceptin) for the treatment of breast cancer.

The cobas h 232 analyzer supports POC diagnosis of heart diseases, such as chronic and acute heart failure, myocardial infarction, deep-vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism. It is characterized by speed, mobility and ease of handling.


Roche Pharma AG receives the 2007 Galenus-von-Pergamon Prize in the highest category (Category A) for the cancer medication Avastin. The Galenus prize is a renowned award for innovative medicines.

In 2007, Roche received European approval for the oral fluoropyrimidine Capecitabin (Xeloda®) for the treatment of advanced gastric cancer, and Erlotinib (Tarceva®) received EU-wide approval for the treatment of metastatic pancreatic cancer in combination with the chemotherapeutic agent gemcitabine.


Ventana BenchMark Ultra, a multimodal staining system for tissue-based cancer diagnostics, is launched in Germany. The fully automated Ventana BenchMark system can perform simultaneous and independent protein, DNA and RNA analyses of tissue samples.

The European Medicines Agency EMEA has approved Avastin (Bevacizumab) for the first-line treatment of advanced renal cell carcinoma. With the VEGF antibody, the progression-free survival of renal cancer patients can be nearly doubled.

2009 - 2013

New Perspectives


The interactive Accu-Chek Combo insulin pump system for the first time combines a blood glucose meter, an insulin pump and data management.
With the Accu-Chek Aviva Nano, Roche launches a new generation of blood glucose meters onto the market. The small, lightweight meter requires only a small amount of blood to produce rapid results.

Roche Diagnostics launches the COBAS AmpliPrep/COBAS TaqMan HIV-1 Test v. 2.0. It is the first Roche test for the quantitative detection of the HI virus (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) based on dual-target detection.


Tocilizumab (RoACTEMRA®) represents a new treatment option. The active substance is the first and so far the only representative of the new class of the interleukin-6 receptor antagonists. RoACTEMRA specifically binds to both soluble and membrane-bound IL-6 receptors (sIL-6R and mIL-6R).

The drug is jointly marketed in Germany by Roche and the Japanese pharmaceutical company Chugai, a company in the Roche Group.


Roche Diagnostics launches BenchMark GX onto the market.
The so-called "Advanced Staining" procedures, such as IHC (immunohistochemistry), ISH (in-situ hybridization) and FISH (fluorescence in-situ hybridization), are indispensable methods in cancer diagnostics.

The Benchmark GX system is particularly interesting for laboratories with low sample volumes of up to 4000 samples per year, as it gives them access to an economical, fully automated sample processing system.


Roche launches Trastuzumab (Herceptin®) as a first-line treatment for metastatic HER2-positive gastric cancer and adenocarcinoma of the gastro-esophageal junction (GEJ).

This is the first targeted therapeutic approach to gastric cancer. The anti-HER2 antibody Herceptin has already proved its worth as a targeted therapy for breast cancer.


Roche Pharma AG celebrated the inauguration of two new buildings.
All Roche buildings at the Grenzach site acquired an independent power supply and 160 people moved into the new office building.

The investment volume amounted to 30 million euros, of which, according to Dr. Hagen Pfundner, Chairman of Roche Pharma AG, over 80% of the construction budget went to enterprises in the region.


2012 Galenus-von-Pergamon Prize

Roche receives the 2012 Galenus-von-Pergamon Prize and the PZ Innovation Prize for its skin-cancer medication.

Roche Pharma AG received the 2012 Galenus-von-Pergamon Prize in the Specialist Care category for their cancer drug Vemurafenib (Zelboraf). The Galenus prize, awarded by the magazine Ärzte-Zeitung, is a renowned prize for innovative medicines.

One of the reasons given by the 14-member jury was that "Vemurafenib is the first choice for a personalized therapy for unresectable or metastatic melanoma".


Pertuzumab awarded the 2013 Galenus-von-Pergamon Prize

Pertuzumab (Perjeta), the innovative breast cancer medication developed by Roche Pharma AG, was awarded the renowned Galenus-von-Pergamon Prize in the Specialist Care category.

Following Avastin in 2007 and Zelboraf in 2012, this is already the third award for a medication developed by Roche.

The new drug is an innovation that bears the "Made in Germany" label: Pertuzumab was primarily researched and developed at Roche's Penzberg site.