Illumina hit with record-high EU antitrust fine

July 12, 2023

It seems the FTC is not the only watchdog taking a closer look at life sciences deals.

DNA sequencing equipment company Illumina was fined a record $476 million (€432 million) by an EU antitrust watchdog for closing its takeover of cancer test maker Grail before securing EU approval.

Grail was founded by Illumina in 2016 and was spun out as a standalone company. In 2020, Illumina announced its intentions to re-acquire the company. The U.S. FTC okayed the deal last September, but EU regulators blocked it — concerned that San Diego-based Illumina, once it had acquired Grail, would have an incentive to cut off Grail's rivals from accessing its technology to develop early cancer detection tests to compete with Grail.

But Illumina disagreed, saying it could make Grail's lifesaving multi-cancer early detection test more available and affordable, and appealed the decision.

Now, EU antitrust enforcers say Illumina closed the deal prematurely, calling the move an "unprecedented and a very serious infringement."

This comes on the heels of Illumina making the decision to reduce its workforce and downsize its global real estate presence as part of a long-term plan to optimize operating expenses and prioritize sustainable growth.