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GRAIL Founder Returns To Illumina As CTO



By Bio-IT World Staff

May 4, 2020 | Illumina today announced the appointment of Alex Aravanis as Chief Technology Officer. Dr. Aravanis will be responsible for leading Illumina’s research and technology development functions and the innovation engine for next-generation sequencing platforms and applications, accelerating technology breakthroughs and translation to the clinic. 

Dr. Aravanis will join Illumina in early June and will report to Chief Executive Officer, Francis deSouza. Mostafa Ronaghi, who served as Illumina’s Chief Technology Officer, is taking on a new role as Senior Vice President of Entrepreneurial Development, responsible for supporting and catalyzing the expanding genomics entrepreneurial ecosystem. 

Dr. Aravanis is returning to Illumina from GRAIL, Inc. which he co-founded, and serves as the Chief Scientific Officer and Head of Research and Development. At GRAIL, he led the teams developing its multi-cancer early detection test by combining high-intensity sequencing approaches of unprecedented breadth and depth, and the latest tools of data science and data engineering, including powerful approaches from machine learning, such as neural networks. He and the GRAIL team created one of the largest clinical study programs ever in genomic medicine to support development of its products. 

Prior to GRAIL, Dr. Aravanis served in R&D for Illumina and developed multiple technologies, including clinical assays and bioinformatic pipelines for the analysis of RNA and DNA from fixed tissues, whole exome analysis, massively parallel single cell transcriptomics and liquid biopsy using cell-free nucleic acids.

“I am humbled and excited to rejoin the Illumina team, especially at a time when unlocking the power of the genome has never been more important,” said Dr. Aravanis in the Illumina press release. “I look forward to building on Illumina’s existing portfolio of leading products and expansive technology roadmap to further accelerate the impact of sequencing and transform human health through advancements in life science research and clinical applications.”

Ronaghi has driven many key research breakthroughs in sequencing technology since joining Illumina in 2008 with the acquisition of Avantome, Inc., which he co-founded. He has tirelessly championed the startup community by co-founding GRAIL and launching Illumina Accelerator in 2014. In his new role, Ronaghi will be connecting with the entrepreneurial community and early-stage companies around the world to accelerate breakthrough applications in genomics.

“We are thrilled to welcome Alex back to Illumina, now as our Chief Technology Officer, to ensure that Illumina will continue to deliver cutting edge technology to support the ever-broader adoption and impact of genomics,” said Francis deSouza, Illumina’s Chief Executive Officer, in the same statement. “In addition to his unique background and experience in sequencing technology, engineering, and clinical applications, Alex knows Illumina well and is the right leader to build on Mostafa’s achievements and ensure our culture of innovation is protected as Illumina continues to grow.” 

Dr. Aravanis holds a B.S. in Electrical Engineering, Computer Science, and Physics Minor from the University of California, Berkeley, as well as an M.S. and Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering, and an M.D. from Stanford University. 

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