Illumina, Grail Deal Faces Battles In US & EU

Life-sciences company Illumina is facing a labyrinth of antitrust hurdles on two continents as it seeks to save its planned US$7.1 billion acquisition of Grail, which is developing an early-stage cancer-detection test.

The deal, announced last September, could have important ramifications for cancer care and the future of both companies. It also has become something of a test for US and European antitrust enforcers as they focus more on whether acquisitions of leading startups could slow innovation.

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sued the companies in March to block the deal. Since then, the European Union has added an element of intrigue by invoking a new policy to claim a say on whether the combination of the two US-based companies moves forward.

llumina and Grail suffered the latest in a series of legal blows late Friday, May 28, in San Diego, where a judge granted the FTC’s request to drop coming federal court proceedings, rejecting arguments from the companies that a slower legal timeline would be unfair to their defense of the transaction. Illumina is separately mounting a legal campaign overseas contesting the EU’s jurisdiction.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the FTC sees the deal differently, arguing it could harm competition in the testing market. Other cancer-test developers—Grail’s competitors—have no choice but to use Illumina’s instruments, the FTC alleged in its complaint, putting Illumina in a position to impede their efforts and “cause substantial harm to U.S. consumers, who would experience reduced innovation, as well as potentially higher costs and reduced choice and quality for these lifesaving products.”

Want more news? Subscribe to CPI’s free daily newsletter for more headlines and updates on antitrust developments around the world.