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When Bad Antitrust Costs Lives: The Illumina/GRAIL Tragedy

 |  April 10, 2023

By: Alden Abbott (Truth On The Market)

It is with regret, but little surprise, that we saw the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) throw out a decision by its administrative law judge and ordered DNA-sequencing provider Illumina Inc. to divest their ownership of GRAIL Inc., makers of a multi-cancer early detection (MCED) test.

The FTC has argued that this vertical transaction would would affect competition and innovation in the U.S. market for life-saving cancer tests. The decision sadly ignores Illumina’s ability to use its resources to obtain regulatory clearances and bring GRAIL’s test to market more quickly, thereby saving many future lives. Other benefits of the transaction, including the elimination of double marginalization, have been succinctly summarized by Thom Lambert. See also the outstanding critique of the FTC’s case by Bruce Kobayashi, Jessica Melugin, Kent Lassman, and Timothy Muris, and this update by Dan Gilman.

The transaction’s potential boon to consumers and patients has, alas, been sacrificed at the altar of theoretical future harms in a not-yet-existing MCED market, and ignores Illumina’s proffered safeguards (embodied in contractual assurances) that it would make its platform available to third parties in a neutral fashion…