What’s Going to Happen to Grail Now?

The European Commission is blocking Illumina’s $8 billion acquisition of Grail. The San Diego, CA-based company said it would appeal the decision.

Omar Ford

September 6, 2022

2 Min Read
Image courtesy of Kristoffer Tripplaar / Alamy Stock Photo

The European Commission is prohibiting Illumina’s acquisition of Grail, an early cancer detection specialist. The measure comes a few days after a Federal Trade Commission Judge voted in favor of the gene sequencing company’s $8 billion acquisition of Grail.

San Diego, CA-based Illumina said it intends to appeal the European Commission’s decision.

"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. Last week the Chief Judge of the US Federal Trade Commission issued a decision supporting Illumina acquiring Grail."

In addition, to prepare for the anticipated divestment order from the European Commission in the coming months, the company said it will begin reviewing strategic alternatives for Grail in the event the divestiture is not stayed pending Illumina's appeal.

The European Commission’s most recent ruling adds another layer of complexity to a saga that began in September of 2020.  During that time Illumina made it clear it wanted to bring Grail, the company it launched in 2016, back into the fold.

However, Illumina’s M&A plans hit a snag when the FTC filed a lawsuit to block the deal. FTC’s complaint alleged the acquisition would diminish innovation in the U.S. market for multi-cancer early detection tests.

The situation didn’t get any better for Illumina – because the European Commission was critical of the deal, too. Illumina fired back and filed an action to annul the commission’s decision.

Perhaps in one of medtech’s biggest twists in recent history, Illumina, despite scrutiny from FTC and the European Commission, decided to acquire Grail.  Illumina said it made the decision because Grail does not conduct business in the EU, and it believed that the European Commission did not have jurisdiction to review the merger. 

Illumina said if it didn’t take these steps to acquire Grail, then the company would be locked into a situation where the deal terms would expire before there is a chance for a full review.

This move did not stop the European Commission. In July, the European Union General court ruled the commission could continue with its investigation. Then a report from Reuters in late July noted that it was likely Grail’s acquisition would be vetoed.

Now with today’s news, nothing is certain - save for the fact that one of medtech’s biggest deals of 2021 is now in jeopardy.


About the Author(s)

Omar Ford

Omar Ford is MD+DI's Editor-in-Chief. You can reach him at [email protected].


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