Public Health

Illumina announces CEO transition plan as Francis deSouza resigns

Francis deSouza, chief executive officer of Illumina Inc., during a panel session on day three of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023.

Stefan Wermuth | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Illumina on Sunday its board of directors has accepted the resignation of CEO Francis deSouza, just weeks after activist investor Carl Icahn failed to oust him from the biotech company.

The board of directors is searching for a new CEO and is considering both internal and external candidates, according to a release. Charles Dadswell, Illumina’s senior vice president and general counsel, will act as CEO in the interim.

DeSouza’s resignation is effective immediately, but he will stay on in an advisory capacity until July 31.

“It has been the privilege of a lifetime to serve Illumina,” deSouza said in the release. “We have made great progress together, but I believe we are still at the very beginning of the impact Illumina will have on human health by unlocking the power of the genome.”

Illumina, known for its DNA sequencing and array-based technology, has been in a heated proxy fight with Icahn, who owns a 1.4% stake in the company.

Icahn has accused Illumina’s executive management and board of poor oversight, particularly with regard to the company’s controversial $7.1 billion acquisition of cancer test maker Grail in 2021. Similarly, in an open letter to Illumina shareholders in April, Icahn accused deSouza of “desperately, hilariously and, most of all, unsuccessfully” trying to spin “decidedly mediocre” quarterly results during a press tour.

In late May, Icahn had urged shareholders to vote off deSouza and Chairman John Thompson from the nine-member board. Shareholders booted Thompson, but deSouza held onto his role until Sunday.

Icahn wrote in a tweet Sunday that he is “happy” to see the recent changes at Illumina.

“While obviously I believe the change of CEO should have come meaningfully sooner, it is still a very positive occurrence,” he said.

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