It began as a government-owned lab, set up in 1916 in Melbourne to service the health needs of a nation isolated by war. Almost 100 years later it’s a global multi-billion dollar force employing more than 13,000 people.
During World War I, one of the first actions of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, as it was then known, was to produce three million doses of a mixed bacterial vaccine in an attempt to combat the Spanish Influenza epidemic sweeping the world.
After privatisation in 1994 and the acquisition of a number of companies, CSL Limited now makes 70 different plasma-derived and recombinant products, and last financial year pulled in global revenues of $5.5 billion. Here in Australia, it is one of the country’s top 10 publicly listed companies. CSL comprises two major subsidiaries: CSL Behring and bioCSL.
Research and Development is integrated with CSL’s subsidiaries, adapting existing products for new uses and developing novel breakthough medicines for global commercialisation. CSL employs more than 1000 scientists, with more than half of them based at the R&D headquarters in Melbourne. CSL spent more than $US450 million in 2014 on R&D and has a rich and promising pipeline of new products.
CSL Behring is a global leader in plasma therapeutics, with products spanning a range of therapy areas, including the treatment of bleeding disorders such as haemophilia and von Willebrand disease. Vital plasma products created by CSL Behring are also used in situations such as trauma, emergency surgery and burns.
In Australia, CSL Behring works closely with the National Blood Authority and the Australian Red Cross Blood Service to process precious plasma donated by generous volunteers into 15 different therapies for Australian patients. CSL Behring also provides this service to governments in the Asia-Pacific region.
In 2010, CSL announced a $257 million expansion in Melbourne, with a new manufacturing facility dedicated to producing its global immunoglobulin product Privigen from US- sourced plasma. Privigen is used to treat a range of conditions such as primary immunodeficiency and the facility is due to become operational in 2016.
In October, CSL announced it would undertake a further $210 million expansion at CSL Behring’s Melbourne site to meet a growing demand for its albumin therapy. The expansion will create 200 jobs during construction, and another 190 manufacturing jobs once complete.
Albumin, a protein found in human plasma, is used to restore blood volume in people after trauma or major surgery, along with patients suffering burns or serious infections.
These expansions will further strengthen the role that CSL Behring’s Melbourne site in the company’s global manufacturing network.
CSL’s second major subsidiary, bioCSL, is based in Parkville in Melbourne, and is dedicated to vaccines and pharmaceuticals. It plays a very important role in biosecurity in Australia, as the nation’s only onshore manufacturer of influenza vaccine, and the world’s only producer of uniquely Australian antivenom and Q-fever vaccine. bioCSL exports influenza vaccine to the US, UK and Germany and provides pandemic preparedness and priority response to Australia.
In late October, parent company CSL Limited announced it had acquired the global influenza vaccine business of Novartis for $US275 million, which would be combined with bioCSL.
The acquisition will create the world’s second largest vaccine company in the influenza industry, with bioCSL’s Parkville facilities in Melbourne to play a key role in the global manufacturing network of the newly combined business.
In May, the company opened a new world-class Biotech Manufacturing Facility in Melbourne. One of the largest and most advanced facilities of its kind in Australia, the site will produce recombinant therapies on a large scale for international clinical trials. The first products to be manufactured in the facility are a family of novel recombinant clotting factors which are currently in late stage development in CSL’s R&D pipeline.