Illumina campus in San Diego
A sign on Illumina’s campus in San Diego. Reuters/Mike Blake

San Diego-based genetic sequencing innovator Illumina announced Wednesday it completed a $7.1 billion acquisition of cancer test maker Grail despite ongoing antitrust reviews by the United States and European Union.

Illumina said it will hold Grail as a separate company during the European Commission’s regulatory review, but there is “no legal impediment to acquiring Grail in the U.S.” while the Federal Trade Commission pursues a lawsuit against the transaction.

“The decision to make the acquisition and hold the companies separate permits the regulatory processes to proceed while safeguarding the life-saving, pro-competitive benefits of this vertical transaction without the deal expiring. We will abide by any outcome ultimately reached by the courts,” said Charles Dadswell, general counsel for Illumina.

Grail, which was spun out of Illumina in 2016, makes a non-invasive, early detection test called Galleri to screen for many kinds of cancers using DNA sequencing.

Both the FTC and European regulations are concerned that the acquisition will stifle competition in the market for cancer tests, but Illumina warned that rejecting the deal would create a dangerous delay for cancer patients.

“Just as we are now able to screen for early-stage diabetes and high cholesterol, we will soon be able to conduct multi-cancer early detection with a simple blood test in your doctor’s office,” said Francis deSouza, chief executive officer of Illumina. 

“Since early detection of cancer saves lives, this new genomic test will be nothing short of transformational for human health and the economics of healthcare,” he said.

To assuage antitrust concerns, deSouza told Reuters that Illumina had offered a 12-year contract to supply its technology to potential rivals.

Hans Bishop, chief executive officer of Menlo Park-based Grail, said getting the test to market one year sooner has the potential to save 10,000 lives over a nine-year-period in the United States alone.

Reuters contributed to this article.

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.