Biotherapeutics leader CSL, a lead member of the Australian Advanced Manufacturing Council (AAMC), celebrated its 100 year history on April 14 at the Melbourne showgrounds, in a building that once served, aptly, as a military hospital during the two world wars.
With Geraldine Doogue MCing and Greg Hunt representing Malcolm Turnbull, who was in China, the event was a proud celebration for current and former employees and associates.
CSL, formerly Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, was floated as a public company in 1994. It began life as a government enterprise charged with safeguarding the health of Australians fighting in World War I and was among the first to offer drugs such as insulin and penicillin to civilian citizens. More lately it has helped to bring Gardasil vaccines to the world.
CSL’s influenza vaccines business now operates under the brand Seqirus following the merger of the recently-acquired Novartis influenza business.
Renowned Chief Executive Brian McNamee had CSL take over a government plasma plant in Broadmeadows early in what was to become a remarkable 23-year tenure.
His foremost achievements were recognising the need to go global to achieve scale and cost efficiency, expanding the advanced
animal health business offshore, and later making astute international acquisitions.
CSL also developed blood plasma products of its own rather than having to source them.
The merger with the Swiss ZLB business proved a masterstroke. A $1,000 investment in CSL when it floated would be worth over $200,000 today, an unrivalled return in Australia.
Describing his two decades at the firm at the gala, McNamee expressed a healthy disdain for what he considers to be business fads such as outsourcing, and remembered consultant McKinsey concluding that the company was unlikely to succeed.
Like retailer Gerry Harvey, McNamee also shuns expensive head offices which he says send the wrong message.
Current Chief Paul Perreault, says CSL’s influenza vaccine operations are the next big growth area, and is working on fending off disruption from new technologies by being at the forefront of these trends.
Perreault also announced a $25 million fellowship program for early stage and translational research in Australia, with a selection committee headed by molecular biologist Professor Ashley Dunn.
“We believe Australia’s medical research community is world-class and a rich source of potential discoveries to address the world’s unmet medical needs,” said Dr Andrew Cuthbertson, CSL Chief Scientific Officer and Director of Research & Development.
“We hope some of the Australian researchers currently working around the globe will seize this opportunity to come home and perform their vital research here”.