By Paul Perreault
March 7, 2017
One of the things I like to remind our people to do is remember where we came from. In reflecting on my recent interview with Medical Marketing & Media (MM&M) magazine, in which I talked about CSL Limited’s unique beginning as a government agency, it strikes me that we really are unlike other biotechs.
Founded by the Australian government in 1916, CSL was born to serve people. It wasn’t until 1994 that we were privatized. CSL was established to ensure a continuous supply of medicines to Australians would not be disrupted by World War I. As I mentioned in my interview, we started with a mindset that reflected our government heritage – we’re always scrapping.
Over the last 101 years, our mission has evolved… but that hasn’t changed our scrappy mindset.
Over the past 101 years, our mission has evolved to providing our lifesaving biotherapies around the world, but that hasn’t changed our scrappy mindset. During this time we’ve earned a reputation as a passionate yet responsible organization driven by our promise to care for patients and keep our word.
Today, we’re the eighth largest company that trades on the Australia Stock Exchange by market capitalization, with 46% of our business coming from North America. Yet, where we came from is still very much a part of who we are. We still spend every company dollar like it’s our own. Our offices are pleasant working environments, but there are no art galleries, fountains or marble. Instead, you’ll see visuals of the patients who we serve.
We know what we are. CSL Behring is a global leader in the biotherapeutics industry and Seqirus, which we formed after combining our own influenza vaccines business in 2015 with the newly purchased Novartis flu vaccine business, ranks as the world’s second largest provider of influenza vaccines. Yet, while we know what we are, we also know what we’re not.
As an example, a few years ago when our antibody for treatment of acute myeloid leukemia showed promise in early trials, we didn’t bulk up in anticipation of an eventual push into a new category. Instead, we licensed the asset to Janssen. We wouldn’t have been a good parent because we’re not an oncology company, and we understand that.
Another thing that differentiates CSL is that I’m hands-on in a way many other biotechnology leaders are not.
Another thing that differentiates CSL is that I’m hands-on in a way many other biotechnology leaders are not. I started in sales and I still make it a priority to periodically go on sales calls with our reps and ask questions about their markets. I probably drive my people a little crazy – when you ask questions, sometimes people feel you don’t trust them, which isn’t the case. I’m interested in every aspect of the business from our research teams to our field sales.
Last year we launched five novel products. We’re also excited about the potential of pipeline compounds for cardiovascular diseases and rare diseases. First and foremost, my focus is on people — our 17,000-plus employees and the patients who rely on our medicines. My one worry is to always be sure we have the right people doing the right things for patients. If we are consistently successful in this area, the business will follow.
Some habits die hard. I was the second oldest of eight siblings and I always tried to set an example. As CEO, I still feel that way. Effective leaders lead, in large part, by example. Take for example our sports clinic, which CSL runs every year in Phoenix for more than 100 children with bleeding disorders. I’ve caddied during the golf tournament, shagged baseballs and timed the swimming races during the clinic.
That’s why when I hear about companies that have a “chief patient officer,” I shake my head. If you have to hire somebody for that role, it means the focus on patients is not woven into the culture of an organization. That will never be a problem at CSL.
Paul Perreault is CSL Limited’s CEO and Managing Director