Illumina faces months-long EU antitrust probe over Grail acquisition: report

Illumina may be facing a protracted legal battle with the European Union’s antitrust authorities over its $8 billion takeover offer for the cancer blood test developer Grail following a months-long preliminary probe that is now nearing completion. 

According to a report from Reuters, The European Commission’s watchdogs appear unimpressed with Illumina’s olive branches so far. The DNA sequencing giant’s concessions have been similar to the ones it pitched to help ward off anti-competitive concerns across the pond in the U.S. 

They include a pledge to sign new standard contracts with oncology customers that would guarantee access to DNA sequencing hardware and consumables for at least 12 years with no price increases and a promise to not discontinue any product as long as it’s being purchased by a cancer test developer. Illumina also made a commitment to lower prices by at least 40% over the next four years. 

These were also proffered as something of a compromise for the Federal Trade Commission, which said it would intervene to stop Illumina’s buyout of its former spinout. Obtaining a deeper position in the clinical testing business could give the sequencing manufacturer—with its nearly unassailable DNA analysis market share—the ability to throttle the research from Grail’s potential competitors, the FTC claimed.

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In Europe, Illumina is suing the commission to stop its investigation, saying it has no jurisdiction over the deal, as Grail does no business on the continent. 

However, according to the Reuters report, the EC’s directorate-general for competition may be poised to launch a full, five-month regulatory investigation before the end of July—pushing the timeline perilously close to the ultimate expiration date in mid-December for the multibillion-dollar deal—unless Illumina makes further concessions. 

Meanwhile, the FTC’s investigation is currently in a holding pattern, after a U.S. federal court early last month granted regulators the chance to postpone their actions until after the European probe has run its course. Though that might also run out the clock on the deal, with Illumina CEO Francis deSouza describing the agency’s moves as “time-wasting maneuverings.”