Illumina CEO Flatley passes the exec baton on the heels of growth

Illumina CEO Jay Flatley

The winds of change are blowing at Illumina ($ILMN). Jay Flatley will step down as CEO and into a new position as the company's executive chairman of the board of directors. Illumina's president Francis deSouza will assume the top-dog role, taking the reins of the company as it charges ahead with ambitious growth initiatives.

DeSouza, who is slated to begin his new job on July 5, 2016, has some big shoes to fill. Flatley has been the head honcho at Illumina for almost two decades. During that time, he helped expand the company's annual revenues from $500,000 to more than $2.2 billion in 2015, cementing its status as a sequencing giant. Flatley also spearheaded operational changes that resulted in a larger employee base, growing from 30 in 1999 to more than 4800 in 2015.

"The Board would like to thank Jay for his dedication to the company as CEO for the last 17 years. He deserves incredible recognition for what he has accomplished in the role, and we are very pleased that he will continue to actively serve the company as Executive Chairman," Illumina's Lead Independent Director Blaine Bowman said in a statement.

But "the time is right" for deSouza to step into the CEO role, Flatley said. DeSouza brings his own extensive resume to the table. He joined the company as president in 2013 and has since worked with the board and the company's top management, including Flatley, to spur product development and marketing. "Francis is an exceptional leader, with a demonstrated track record of leading large organizations and implementing complex growth strategies," Flatley said.

Francis deSouza

Illumina is setting its sights on more growth in the year to come. In January, the company launched its MiniSeq System, a system that helps make sequencing more affordable for labs. Illumina the same month struck a deal with Bio-Rad Labs to create a tool for single-cell genomics, which could help researchers in studies of tissues with multiple cell types.

The company in January also revealed its liquid biopsy spinoff, Grail. Backed by $100 million in Series A financing from Illumina and investors such as Bill Gates and Sutter Hill Ventures, the spinoff is aiming to flag biomarkers for cancer by using Illumina's sequencing technology. If all goes well, the company's work could help identify the disease in earlier stages.

"I joined Illumina because I believe in the enormous potential of our mission to improve human health by unlocking the power of the genome," deSouza said. "Today, having witnessed the impact our technology has on patients' lives, and having experienced the passion and dedication of our employees, I could not be more honored, or more confident in our future."

- read the statement