Francis deSouza with NovaSeq X
Illumina CEO Francis deSouza unveils the NovaSeq X Series sequencing platforms in 2022. Courtesy of the company

San Diego genetic-sequencing pioneer Illumina on Monday challenged Carl Icahn’s bid for control, saying the billionaire activist investor’s board candidates “lack relevant skills.”

Icahn launched a proxy fight in a letter to shareholders, saying Illumina’s takeover of cancer-detection spinoff Grail had cost $50 billion in share value because of regulatory uncertainty.

But Illumina countered that Icahn is seeking “outsized influence and control” and lacks understanding of the regulatory process.

“The board has determined Icahn’s nominees lack relevant skills and experience, and that it is not in the best interests of shareholders to appoint Mr. Icahn’s three nominees,” the company said in a statement.

“Icahn’s letter neither recognizes the real value that Grail can provide to Illumina’s shareholders, nor reflects an understanding of the regulatory process. Illumina is moving as quickly as possible to arrive at a resolution.”

Shares of Illumina jumped more than 20% to $233.50 in morning trade.

According to the latest regulatory filings, Icahn owns about 2.2 million shares, or 1.4%, of the company. 

Illumina shareholders are not required to take any immediate action, but will likely face a vote at the company’s annual meeting.

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.