It appears that Illumina’s worst fears seem to be coming to fruition. On Friday, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ordered Illumina to divest Grail, which it acquired for $8 billion in August 2021 without waiting for regulatory approval. According to the FTC’s statement, allowing Illumina to keep its former spinout and developer of early cancer detection liquid biopsy tests “would stifle competition and innovation in the U.S. market for life-saving cancer tests,” resulting in higher prices and lower test quality as well as fewer choices for consumers.
Illumina isn’t backing down. The company says it has a strong legal case and plans to appeal the FTC ruling. But it’s fighting a war across several fronts. The European Commission (EC) has also expressed antitrust concerns and is expected to impose sanctions against Illumina for closing the Grail deal in defiance of a standstill order. Illumina has filed a lawsuit in the European Court of Justice challenging the EC’s jurisdiction over the acquisition.
Illumina is also under siege on its own home front. Last week, billionaire investor activist and Illumina shareholder Carl Icahn launched a proxy war seeking to replace three of the company’s board members. In addition to commanding national media attention, the proxy war has gotten very ugly with both sides ramping up the rhetoric in recent days.