Phil Schiller, Apple’s marketing chief, is now a director of Illumina, one of the most important companies in gene sequencing.
Illumina has an enormous presence in the life science industry. It makes the machines and develops technology used for genetic testing, and counts companies like 23andMe as customers. It has a market capitalisation of $25 billion.
If you’ve had your genes sequenced, in one of those consumer genetic tests like 23andMe for instance, it was most likely on an Illumina machine. 90% of human genetic sequencing takes place on Illumina machines.
Earlier this year, Apple’s ResearchKit platform — which is being explored for uses in drug development — began to support studies that use 23andme genetic information.
“Illumina is like the ruler of this whole universe and no one knows that,” 23andMe’s CEO Anne Wojcicki told Fast Company.
Schiller has been with Apple since 1997 and works to define the company’s product lines and strategy. He’s a key advisor to CEO Tim Cook and frequently presents the newest iPhone at Apple keynote presentations.
Apple as a company has a deep interest in health and its Apple Watch is a way to break into the medical world. Apple executives talk about simplifying health care as a major focus and mission — it’s even hired nurses to staff labs to do round-the-clock biometric testing.
“We believe that health is something that is a huge problem in the world, and we think it is ripe for simplicity and a new view, and we’d like to contribute to that,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said at a conference earlier this year.
Apple’s health division reports to Apple COO Jeff Williams, not Schiller. And Schiller joining his first board of directors in the health space could signal an expansion of Apple’s medical ambitions given his product focus.
Previously, Apple was looking to hire a medical privacy specialist who could consult on mergers and acquisitions, and hired the CEO of Sage Bionetworks, which handles much of the consent and back-end functions for Apple’s health software.
“Phil’s track record and global experience in bringing world-class products to market will help guide us as we continue to develop innovative new solutions for our customers,” Francis deSouza, Illumina president said in a statement.