By Andrea Douglas, Ph.D.
January 17, 2017
We often say innovation is in our DNA at CSL. But without financial and scientific commitment to a dynamic R&D program, innovation would not be possible. The long-term sustainability of CSL requires a full R&D pipeline of high-quality prospective products. This is why CSL has invested $2.3 billion in R&D over the last five years and why we support research teams all over the world. It is also the reason we are committed to identifying and supporting the best and brightest biomedical researchers in Australia.
Our commitment to R&D extends to the broader scientific community beyond the CSL laboratories. An example of this is the CSL Centenary Fellowship program. This $AUD 25 million program awards two, five-year $1.25 million fellowships each year to early/mid-career Australian medical researchers, who are working on world-class discovery or translational research in the areas of rare and serious diseases, immunology and inflammation.
Last October, CSL CEO and Managing Director Paul Perreault and CSL Chairman Prof. John Shine awarded the first two fellowships to Prof. Geoff Faulkner from the University of Queensland and Associate Prof. Steven Lane from the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute. Each received a five-year, $1.25 million fellowship.
Prof. Lane’s research focuses on tailoring leukemia treatments to reduce relapse rates in older patients.
Prof. Lane’s research focuses on tailoring leukemia treatments to reduce relapse rates in older patients. Today, 85 percent of children with leukemia can be cured. However, the outlook for patients over 60 is bleak, with only 10 percent surviving beyond one year as their cancer adapts to the standard chemotherapy treatments; Prof. Lane wants to change that outlook.
He has developed a method to rapidly profile the genetics of leukemia types and model them in the lab, allowing him to map the effectiveness of chemotherapy treatments against the genomes of individual cancers. The CSL fellowship will support his efforts at tailoring treatments to individuals by identifying new drug pathways and exploring and repurposing existing drugs to target resistant leukemia types. You can read more about Steven’s work and watch a short video here.
Prof. Faulkner thinks long-term memory may be stored in our brain’s DNA and he’ll test his theory in brains affected by Alzheimer’s.
Prof. Faulkner thinks long-term memory may be stored in our brain’s DNA and he’ll test his theory in brains of people affected by Alzheimer’s. It’s a bold idea, and he’s already shown that the DNA in our brains is different from the DNA in the rest of our bodies, and that it changes as we learn. He proposes that these changes are associated with how we store our long-term memories.
Prof. Faulkner is testing the idea on brain tissue donated by Alzheimer’s patients to determine if DNA is involved in memory formation, and what the implications of this might be for people living with the disease. His research is moving us closer to an understanding of conditions like Alzheimer’s and hopefully towards a cure for this chronic and devastating disease. You can read more about Geoff’s work and watch a short video here.
CSL Chief Scientific Officer Andrew Cuthbertson says Professors Faulkner and Lane embody the spirit and strategy of the fellowships. “Steven and Geoff are both exceptionally bright young scientists, who each have at least 30 years of research ahead of them. I hope that they will one day be counted among Australia’s most pre-eminent scientists, driving and maintaining excellence in the research ecosystem and leading and mentoring a whole new generation of world-class scientists and scientific endeavor.”
CSL’s R&D is headquartered in the Melbourne, Australia “Parkville Biotech Precinct,” and we have specialist teams, totaling over 1,000 employees, across Switzerland, Germany, Japan and the USA.
A new CSL product approved for patients today would likely have begun its development journey 10-15 years ago in our research laboratories. And CSL, like all biotech companies, needs to ensure that it is resourcing its entire product pipeline beginning with high quality early stage programs coming into our research portfolio. This takes skill, money, friendship, partnership, strategy – and really good science!
As Australia’s largest biotech company CSL has a unique standing in Australia and within its world-class medical research community. This, in addition to our strong focus on discovery research, means that it is a strategically important source of new product candidates.
Last year we celebrated CSL’s Centenary and we’re just getting started. Today we are more committed than ever to supporting and fostering excellence in the Australian medical research community as a whole. This is our way of giving back to the medical science community and to patients worldwide who will benefit from innovative medicines yet be discovered.
Dr. Andrea Douglas is CSL’s Vice President R＆D Strategy and External Affairs