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EC Regulators Block Illumina’s $7.1B GRAIL Deal

Just days after a favorable ruling from an Administrative Law Judge set the stage for Illumina’s $7.1 billion acquisition of GRAIL, the San Diego-based company was hit with a contrary decision on Tuesday (Sept. 6) by antitrust regulators from the European Commission seeking to block the GRAIL deal.

Illumina responded immediately to the ruling, issuing a press release Tuesday morning stating the company is “reviewing the Commission’s order and intends to appeal the decision.”

The EC decision follows last week’s ruling by a U.S. Federal Trade Commission judge in favor of Illumina’s acquisition of GRAIL, which was founded by Illumina seven years ago and later spun off into a separate company. 

“We are disappointed with the European Commission’s decision prohibiting us from acquiring GRAIL back to Illumina,” said Charles Dadswell, general counsel of Illumina.

“Illumina can make GRAIL’s life-saving multi-cancer early detection test more available, more affordable, and more accessible – saving lives and lowering healthcare costs. As we continue to believe, this merger is pro-competitive and will accelerate innovation,” Dadswell added. “Last week the Chief Judge of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission issued a decision supporting Illumina acquiring GRAIL.”

To prepare for the anticipated divestment order from the European Commission in the coming months, Illumina said it will “begin reviewing strategic alternatives for GRAIL in the event the divestiture is not stayed pending Illumina’s appeal.” 

Investors on Wall Street did not appear to be disheartened by the latest turn of events in the Illumina-GRAIL saga. In early trading Tuesday morning, Illumina’s stock (NASDAQ: ILMN) rose by more than 5 percent.

Industry analysts say the merger of Illumina and GRAIL could usher in a transformational phase in the detection and treatment of cancer by facilitating equal and affordable access to the life-saving early cancer detection Galleri test.

With a single blood test, Galleri can screen asymptomatic patients for more than 50 types of cancer, many of which have no other form of screening and are often caught too late to treat effectively.

In addition, Galleri can identify the tissue in which a cancer has developed. Galleri is unique as a multicancer early detection test suitable for general population screening. There is no other test available for this purpose.

Galleri is available today in the U.S. and the United Kingdom, but not in the European Union.

Illumina’s acquisition of GRAIL would accelerate GRAIL’s commercial entry into the EU at scale by at least five years, saving tens of thousands of lives in the EU and billions of euros in healthcare costs, according to company officials.

The company also said the GRAIL merger would not only accelerate multicancer early detection in the EU but would also reduce inequity in cancer care by making early diagnosis affordable and widespread, another key priority of Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan.

Illumina is separately appealing a July 2022 decision by the General Court of the European Union regarding the European Commission’s jurisdiction to challenge the GRAIL deal.


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