Name: Jacob Thaysen
New title: CEO, Illumina
Previous title: President of the life sciences and applied markets group, Agilent Technologies
DNA sequencing provider Illumina has appointed Jacob Thaysen, 48, as its new CEO, succeeding Charles Dadswell, who has served as interim CEO since the departure of Francis deSouza nearly three months ago after a proxy fight.
Thaysen, whose appointment is effective Sept. 25, will also join Illumina’s board, the company announced Tuesday. Dadswell, who stepped into the CEO role when deSouza resigned, remains the company’s general counsel.
Thaysen joins Illumina from Agilent Technologies, where he was president of the life sciences and applied markets group, Agilent’s largest division with revenue of about $4 billion. Thaysen drove significant improvement in operating profit at the unit, which is responsible for Agilent's analytical instrument portfolio, informatics and cell analysis franchise.
From 2014 to 2018, he was president of Agilent’s diagnostics and genomics group, where he nearly doubled operating profit.
“We are encouraged by Dr. Thaysen's experience leading a business specializing in instrumentation (e.g., mass spectrometry, cell analysis assays) and associated consumables, which is essentially identical to Illumina's business model,” Canaccord Genuity analyst Kyle Mikson said Tuesday in a note to clients. “The announcement of a permanent CEO should eliminate an overhang on the shares as this should remove distractions related to recent executive departures, enabling Illumina to focus on its core objectives.”
Last month, Illumina named a new chief technology officer and said its chief medical officer had stepped down.
As Illumina’s new CEO, Thaysen will need to navigate a series of immediate challenges, including demands from antitrust regulators in both the U.S. and Europe that it divest Grail, the maker of a multi-cancer early detection test. Illumina also is facing sagging revenues and a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation related to its 2021 acquisition of Grail.
Thaysen “will need to flex his skills further to address elasticity of demand challenges at [Illumina] and also a resolution on Grail and its potential for divestiture,” Leerink analyst Puneet Souda said in a note. “Though we were expecting a higher profile CEO, we see Jacob Thaysen's appointment [as] constructive with ILMN needing someone with operational experience in manufacturing and China. Thaysen's operational, manufacturing and China experience should help him in the role.”
DeSouza stepped down as CEO just weeks after a proxy battle led by activist investor Carl Icahn helped convince shareholders to vote out the company’s chair, John Thompson. Icahn candidate Andrew Teno won a seat on the board.
Stephen MacMillan, the CEO of Hologic and former CEO of Stryker, joined Illumina’s board a week later as non-executive chair, and Edwards Lifesciences CFO Scott Ullem also joined the board, after Illumina expanded it to 11 seats from nine.