BRUSSELS (Reuters) - EU antitrust regulators will examine Illumina Inc’s proposed $7.1 billion acquisition of cancer test maker Grail Inc, the European Commission said on Tuesday, following a request from six countries on competition concerns.
U.S. life sciences company Illumina announced last September that it would acquire Grail - which it previously owned before spinning it off as a separate business four years ago - by buying out investors including Amazon.com Inc founder Jeff Bezos. Illumina had remained the company’s largest shareholder.
While the deal does not reach the turnover threshold that would require Illumina to seek EU approval, France asked the EU competition enforcer to vet the deal under new rules announced last month targeting biotech and tech start-up deals, the Commission said.
Belgium, Greece and the Netherlands, as well as non-EU members Norway and Iceland, backed France’s request. Grail makes a non-invasive, early detection biopsy test to screen for many kinds of cancers using DNA sequencing.
“The combined entity could restrict access to or increase prices of next-generation sequencers and reagents to the detriment of Grail’s rivals active in genomic cancer tests following the transaction,” the Commission said in a statement.
Genomic cancer tests are expected to be game-changers in the fight against cancer, it said.
“It is therefore important to ensure that patients get access to this technology as quickly as possible, from as wide sources as possible, and at a fair price,” the EU executive said.
It has asked Illumina to put in a request for EU approval of the deal, a step that will kick off a 25-working day review which could subsequently be extended to a four-month full-scale investigation if there are serious concerns.
Last month, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission said it would seek to stop the deal.
Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Susan Fenton
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