Illumina Experiences a Significant Change in Leadership

Agilent's Jacob Thayen has been tapped to become Illumina's new CEO. The move comes nearly three months after Francis deSouza stepped down from the position, following a heated proxy battle.

Omar Ford

September 5, 2023

2 Min Read
Image Courtesy of Illumina

Illumina’s search for a CEO is complete. The gene-sequencing company announced that it has tapped Agilent’s Jacob Thaysen to take the helm. He serves as the president of Agilent Technologies and president of its Life Sciences and Applied Markets Group.

Thaysen will take over the position effective September 25.

The move comes nearly three months after Francis deSouza stepped down from the position, following a heated proxy battle. deSouza came under fire from Carl Icahn, an activist investor, because of the controversial acquisition of Grail, an early cancer detection firm.  

Thaysen has his work cut out for him. He joins in the middle of Illumina fighting not one, but two orders to block its acquisition of Grail. Both the European Commission and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission have heavily scrutinized the deal. The San Diego, CA-based company has appealed both orders.

Thaysen, 48, has overseen the unit responsible for Agilent's market-leading analytical instrument portfolio, informatics, and cell analysis franchise. During that time, he drove the division's revenue and significantly improved its operating profit. In 2022, that division, Agilent's largest, had revenue of approximately $4 billion, more than 50,000 customers, and an operating margin of approximately 30%. Thaysen has driven the transformation of the analytical lab with a focus on implementing a complete digital laboratory ecosystem combined with innovative and smart instruments.

"Illumina's technology is at the forefront of sequencing and has set the pace for the industry. I am honored, privileged, and excited to lead such a great organization," Thaysen said in a release. "I'm planning to hit the ground running and looking forward to working with the incredibly talented teams at Illumina. Together, we will continue serving our customers as the industry standard and driving long-term value for our shareholders and other stakeholders."

Thaysen’s selection should also quiet rumors and speculation that Hologic’s CEO Stephen MacMillan was going to take the role. The speculation began when MacMillan was appointed as Illumina’s board chairman.

MacMillan addressed the speculation of taking the leadership role at Illumina during Hologic’s most recent earnings call.

“Let's be really clear,” he said during an earnings call, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript.  “I'm at Hologic through the end of my useful life in terms of what I've worked for, built for. And as a reminder to everybody, I am personally a top 15 shareholder in Hologic. So, this is my day job. This is my passion. This is my love. What I have to see is the company five minutes away, that's troubled that I thought, frankly, I could also help out in a different role, which is as Chairman of the Board.”

In a release about Thaysen’s appointment, MacMillan said "After conducting a robust search process, we are thrilled to have found someone of Jacob's caliber to become chief executive of Illumina and help shape and lead the company into its next phase of growth.”

About the Author(s)

Omar Ford

Omar Ford is MD+DI's Editor-in-Chief. You can reach him at [email protected].


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