Illumina acquires GRAIL to accelerate patient access to cancer detection test


The front of San Diego-based biotechnology company Illumina. (Provided image)

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – San Diego-based biotechnology company Illumina acquired GRAIL, a health care company focused on early detection of multiple cancers, it was announced Wednesday.

The company will hold GRAIL as a separate company during the European Commission’s ongoing regulatory review.

Illumina, which specializes in DNA sequencing, first announced its intention to acquire GRAIL nearly a year ago, and the move reunites Illumina with GRAIL four years after the latter company was spun off.

GRAIL’s Galleri blood test is touted as able to detect 50 different cancers before they are symptomatic. Illumina’s acquisition of GRAIL is intended to accelerate access and adoption of this test worldwide.

“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, CEO 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 health care.”

The Galleri test is publicly available, but costs $950 because it is not covered by insurance. Reuniting the two companies, a statement from Illumina reads, is the fastest way to make the test broadly available and affordable.

“The merger with Illumina will get the Galleri test to people far faster,” said Hans Bishop, CEO of GRAIL. “We aim to accelerate this process so the test will be available in doctors’ offices everywhere, fully reimbursed.

“A one-year acceleration of access to the Galleri test for the U.S. population has the potential to save 10,000 lives over a 9-year period,” Bishop continued.

GRAIL and Illumina have a long history. GRAIL’s first employees were part of Illumina, which still owns 12% of the company.

GRAIL has no business in the EU, and the company believes that the European Commission does not have jurisdiction to review the merger. The General Court of the European Union will hear Illumina’s jurisdictional challenge later this year. By holding GRAIL separate while proceedings are ongoing, Illumina is positioned to abide by whatever final decision is reached in the legal processes.

“We will abide by any outcome ultimately reached by the courts,” said Charles Dadswell, general counsel of Illumina.

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