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Attendance Encouraged

After former UK Prime Minister David Cameron urged then-Health Secretary Matt Hancock to attend a genomics conference in 2019, Cameron's employer Illumina won a £123 million (US $170 million) genetic sequencing contract, the UK's Times reports.

Cameron, who stepped down as prime minister in 2016, became a consultant for Illumina two years later. He was barred from lobbying ministers for a few months into his time with Illumina, though said at the time that he would not lobby ministers on behalf of the company or take part in negotiations between it and Genomics England, which was set up during his time as PM.

According to the UK's Times, Cameron sent a Hancock a letter saying: "I understand Jay [Flatley, then the executive chairman of Illumina] has sent this direct to your office, but I wanted to i) ensure that you had seen it personally; and ii) strongly endorse their invitation to this significant conference.” It adds that Hancock decided after hearing from Cameron to attend the meeting. It then further reports Illumina subsequently received a Genomics England contract without competition.

A UK government spokesperson tells the UK's Times that "any suggestion of undue ministerial involvement in the decision-making is completely wrong," while Illumina says it "always follows the correct and necessary processes in its negotiations with customers."

A spokesperson for Cameron, meanwhile, tells the UK's Independent that his "work for Illumina has never involved any discussion of commercial contracts."