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Changes Ahead

Illumina's Jay Flatley is stepping down after some 17 years as the company's CEO, as GenomeWeb reported earlier this week, in a key leadership change. He will become the firm's executive chairman of the board.

When Flatley joined Illumina in 1999, the company's sales were some $500,000 and it employed about 30 people, but last year the company had some $2.2 billion in sales and a workforce of about 4,800. At the same time, Forbes' Matthew Herper adds, the cost of sequencing a human genome has fallen from hundreds of millions of dollars to less than a thousand.

"It's remarkable what he's turned it into," Bud Leedom, president of Leedom Asset Management, tells the San Diego Union-Tribune.

All the while, Herper adds, Illumina has fought off its competitors. "Again and again, [Flatley] confounded competitors who thought their new, flashy ideas could catch up to Illumina's sequencers," Herper writes. "Thanks largely to perfect execution, helped by an aggressive legal strategy, no one has. Illumina has a near stranglehold on most types of DNA sequencing, which is now being used to help pick cancer drugs and to screen for birth defects."

Flatley also fought off a hostile takeover bid by Roche in 2011.

This leadership change, GenomeWeb notes, comes as the company is transitioning from a research tools company to a clinical diagnostics company.

"We believe we have a big role to play in driving the adoption of next-generation sequencing into the clinical market," Francis deSouza, the current Illumina president who will succeed Flatley as CEO in July, tells the Wall Street Journal.