Illumina-Grail deal wins support from GOP lawmakers, AGs

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Republican lawmakers, state attorneys general and several advocacy groups have voiced their support for Illumina’s acquisition of cancer test developer Grail while the Federal Trade Commission fights to unwind the deal. 

The groups filed 14 amicus briefs Monday urging the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse an FTC order that would have Illumina undo the $7.1 billion Grail deal over concerns that it stifles competition. Last week, the San Diego-based DNA sequencing company appealed the agency’s ruling.

The proponents of the deal argued in court filings that the FTC overstepped its authority in trying to unwind the merger that closed nearly two years ago. They added that blocking the companies from merging could harm the development of life-saving technology.

“Unaccountable federal agency power undermines liberty, and overzealous, unfair agency enforcement impedes technological advancements benefitting citizens’ wellbeing,” attorneys general from 12 states said in one of the briefs. 

Those states are Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina, Utah and Virginia. 

Thirty-four Republican lawmakers touted Grail’s early screening test, which can detect more than 50 types of cancers through a single blood draw. The test isn’t approved by the Food and Drug Administration, but it has raked in limited sales over the past year.

Grail needs Illumina to obtain regulatory approval and commercialize production of the test, which are “required steps to delivering the full benefits of these tests to the public and detecting cancer as quickly as possible,” the lawmakers argued. 

The FTC declined to comment on the filings.  

The deal has faced broad opposition: Last year the European Union’s executive body, the European Commission, blocked the acquisition citing similar competition concerns. Illumina has appealed that order. 

And, activist investor Carl Icahn, who holds a 1.4% stake in Illumina, launched a proxy fight with the company over the Grail deal. 

Illumina shareholders voted to oust the chair of its board late last month. The company’s CEO Francis deSouza stepped down on Sunday after weeks of harsh backlash from Icahn.

Icahn’s opposition stemmed from Illumina’s decision to close the acquisition without approval from antitrust regulators.

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