In the News

As San Diegans coped with parching heat instead of the usual June gloom, DNA sequencing giant Illumina honored Jay Flatley, the company's longtime CEO. Flatley will step down as CEO July 5 to become executive chairman, while Francis deSouza will become president and CEO.

With Flatley's wife and young daughters watching, Illumina named its new 127,000 square foot research and development building the Jay T. Flatley Innovation Center.?

Those attending included Kevin Faulconer, San Diego's Mayor, Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego, whose district includes Illumina's headquarters, former Illumina chairman William Rastetter, and Joe Panetta, CEO of Biocom, the San Diego-based life science trade group.

Flatley built a multibillion-dollar company that makes the most intensively used human genome sequencing equipment. And for Flatley, the quest became deeply personal in a way he might not have imagined when joining Illumina in 1999.

After his own genome was sequenced, Flatley found out that he has the most important mutation for a potentially fatal condition called malignant hyperthermia. People with that mutation are in danger of sudden death when given certain general anesthetics used in surgery.

"This is a genetic predisposition, but 100 percent controllable if you know about it," Flatley said. He has this condition noted on his medical record, so if he ever requires general anesthesia, doctors can use a safe substitute. He's got that information on his iPhone, and his doctors know about it.

"But very rarely will anybody going into surgery know about their genetic variants for malignant hyperthermia," he said.

As genomic sequencing becomes more common and less expensive -- largely due to Illumina's ever more powerful equipment -- Flatley foresees such screening becoming a normal part of medical care, beginning almost at birth.