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Illumina Defends $7.1Billion Grail Buy At FTC Hearing

 |  December 14, 2022

On Tuesday Illumina defended its $7.1 billion Grail buy and vowed to continue selling its DNA sequencing services to other companies to avert a possible vote by US antitrust authorities to end the deal.

The Federal Trade Commission, which enforces antitrust laws, filed a complaint in March 2021 to stop the San Diego-based genomics pioneer’s bid for its former subsidiary Grail.

The agency raised concerns that Illumina, the dominant provider of DNA sequencing for multi-cancer screening tests, could raise prices or refuse to continue selling to competitors of Grail, which is trying to commercialize a powerful test to diagnose many cancers one-time blood test.

However, Illumina completed the acquisition of Grial in August 2021 without receiving regulatory approvals from Europe or the United States. In September, the FTC’s chief administrative justice judge overturned the commissioners’ 2021 vote that blocked the deal, allowing it to proceed.

Related: FTC Issues Illuminating Report On Digital Dark Patterns

If the FTC officials vote to overrule the judge, Illumina and Grail could then appeal to a federal appeals court.

In a public FTC hearing, and in an attempt to defend against such a move, Illumina’s attorney, Attorney David Marriott, said Illumina had no reason to stop selling to test producers competing with GRAIL. “It would be Illumina shooting herself in the foot,” he said.

Marriott also argued that the Grail test will save lives by enabling early detection of cancer. He also pointed to an offer by the company to sign contracts to supply Grail’s competitors and a promise not to raise prices.

The FTC’s Susan Musser, who spearheaded the agency’s arguments against the deal, countered that Grail’s competitors might have a harder time getting inputs to run their cancer detection tests if the acquisition received final approval.

“No matter what Illumina does in terms of pricing, delivery or support, GRAIL’s competitors simply don’t have a functional alternative,” she said. “Grail’s rivals just have to take the hit.”