The silent force behind the outstanding success of CSL

The story of the 66-year-old’s journey through CSL was told in a cheerful ballad with rhymed barbs about the countless scribes, which was composed by a handful of colleagues and delivered by video montage as a farewell.

After nearly 25 years, Cuthbertson is finally stepping down. As one of the most accomplished scientists in the country, described by friends as a humble, quiet achiever and “just a nice guy”, he has helped make CSL one of the most successful companies in Australia.

This week he was elected non-executive director of the general meeting of CSL and handed over his important advisory role to the chairman of the board, Paul Perreault.

It’s been quite a drive since 1997. “Brian’s pitch [then CEO McNamee] was come back and do what you do here but for CSL. I knew that this was the only way back to Australia, ”says Cuthbertson.

At the time, CSL had an annual R&D budget of $ 36 million. Today, the world’s leading blood product also has a vaccines business, Seqirus, and spends over $ 1.4 billion on research and development. It has 1,700 scientists in nine countries and a rich pipeline of potential new treatments in immunology; Hematology; cardiovascular and metabolic; Respiratory tract; Transplantation; and flu.

Cuthbertson has seen many ups and several downs. The low point was in the early 2000s when CSL grew rapidly and made large acquisitions.

“Basically we were exposed to one product in one market, namely IG [immunoglobulin] in the US and the price of insulating glass collapsed, and that was a very challenging time, ”he says.

CSL fixed this with the $ 965 million acquisition of Aventis Behring in 2003, which gave it more products and a greater geographic location.

Cuthbertson calls the cancellation of the global COVID-19 vaccine trials with the University of Queensland last December “devastating” as hundreds of CSL employees work on the program.

He says CSL-UQ could try again. CSL has a great relationship with Paul Young, the co-lead of the university’s vaccine team.

“I think the data from the Phase 1 study we were doing is about to be released and I think the data was very positive,” says Cuthbertson. “Paul and his team have set out to develop a next generation version, so we’ll see.”

There has been a long-standing, trusting collaboration between UQ and CSL, which goes back to Professor Ian Fraser and the development of the HPV vaccine Gardasil.

Cuthbertson plans to spend his free time and energy on community service groups he supports and hopes to hike through these bristlecone pines. First, however, he plans to visit his two children in Europe, whom he has not seen for over two years.

He emphasizes the importance of vaccines and urges people to understand the science in order to make informed decisions.

CSL is making an additional 30 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to meet its government contract for 50 million doses. There is no talk of an extension as CSL shifts its focus to mRNA vaccines.

Cuthbertson’s services to science were awarded the Order of Australia and last year he was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science. His work in helping CSL vaccine development was recognized by the company, which awarded him over $ 483,000 in discretionary bonuses last fiscal year.

Former CSL chairman John Shine (L) with CEO Paul Perreault who said Andrew Cuthbertson had inspired many young researchers. Pat Scala

John Shine, former chairman of CSL and president of the Australian Academy of Science, says that Cuthbertson’s medical and scientific knowledge and passion for innovation have driven many exciting projects at CSL.

“The patient’s first mantra, which is in the DNA of CSL, is embodied in Andrew Cuthbertson. His commitment to CSL and Australia is a much-needed inspiration for many younger researchers pursuing careers in industrial R&D, ”says Shine.

Cuthbertson, who initially trained as an ophthalmologist, hopes the pandemic-induced focus on science and research will not pass and encourages more young people to study science because you never know what can be achieved.

“It’s not so much about numbers, it’s about what can be done,” he says.

“When we started we could never have imagined doing a CSL112 with 20,000 people [heart attack prevention therapy] clinical trial around the world to develop a treatment to save the lives of heart attack patients and now we can, and it is very gratifying. “

Comments are closed.