© Reuters The offices of gene sequencing company Illumina Inc are seen in San Diego, California on January 11, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
by David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Federal Trade Commission said on Thursday that the agency’s top judge will appeal a decision in favor of Illumina Inc’s (NASDAQ: ) $7.1 billion purchase of cancer diagnostic test maker Grail Inc.
Judge D. Michael Chappell said the acquisition would not harm competition and was a blow to the agency, which had been challenging the deal. The decision has not yet been made public.
Under FTC rules, the entire decision is subject to review by the Federal Trade Commission. FTC staff filed a notice appealing the decision Friday at https://www.ftc.gov/system/files/ftc_gov/pdf/D09401CCNoticeofAppeal.pdf . Illumina shares fell 2.3 percent on Friday.
Increasing competition has been a mandate of the Biden administration, and Holly Vedova, director of the FTC’s Office of Competition, said Thursday that the agency is considering challenging the judge’s decision.
The FTC has filed suit to block Illumina’s deal to buy Grail, a former subsidiary, in March 2021, slowing the development of tests designed to detect many types of cancer. The vote to impeach was unanimous.
According to the FTC, Illumina is a provider of DNA sequencing for many cancer screenings, which Grail uses for blood tests to detect cancer.
The FTC argued that the deal would have no incentive for Illumina to offer DNA sequencing to Grail’s rivals or to try to raise their costs.
But the judge “rejected the FTC’s position that the agreement would adversely affect competition in the putative market for multi-cancer early detection tests,” Illumina said on Thursday.
Reuters reported in July that Illumina’s acquisition of Grail could be blocked by EU antitrust regulators because of concerns about offers from the US life sciences company.
Illumina closed the deal in August 2021 but said it would treat Grail as a separate company pending the EU review.]
The FTC dismissed the federal court case in May 2021, choosing to proceed with the administrative process, arguing that a federal court case was unnecessary since the European Commission was investigating.