Dr Saliba Sassine, Managing Director Biotech International. Wednesday July 3 1996
The pharmaceutical industry is subject to on-going restructuring so that by end of decade it will comprise of just six major players and niche operators. Dr Saliba Sassine, Managing Director of Biotech International said this change is being promoted by the increasing costs of research. Dr Sassine was addressing the fourteenth CIP seminar on 3 July.
Having commenced in consulting, Biotech has grown from being primarily a consulting firm, ("creating wealth for others" as Saliba put it) to manufacturing products from its research. This has happened with international stresses pulling it between priorities of science and commerce, changing markets and even an initial failure to float about the time of the 1987 stock market crash.
One of Biotech's first products was DNA fingerprinting techniques, to now being one of the top five companies in the world with developed research in enzymatic wood pulping technology. This technology could reduce the use of chlorine by 40 per cent. Saliba commented that it found patents were not always the best option often relying on in-house protection as trade secrets.
Operating in Australia, Biotech has found venture capital less available than in the USA where costly research was more readily funded. Biotech's strategy is to cover risk with equity from another company with an interest in the product. One such company is Gwalia Consolidated which is now a shareholder with its interest in the biological extraction of minerals. (It is worth noting the approach to risk management by Gwalia as identified in the presentation by its MD Mr Peter Lalor on 14 June 1995).
Biotech has its primary focus on skills, niche markets, and technology advantages. It attributes its success to:
|knowing the market, having started with a research project from the WA Government to identify opportunities:|
|persistence (bouncing back):|
|being Australian in an industry dominated by transnationals which helps attract support from other scientific agencies in Australia:|
|developing international networks aimed at complementation:|
|developed allies to market products: and|
|strategic takeovers, including a reverse takeover.|
Commenting to questions, Dr Sassine considered location not as important to the early stages of development with improving transport and communications technology. The lack of relevant infrastructure in WA was however seen as a problem identifying the response of Cortecs, as another West Australian biotechnology company, that relocated to be closer to capital markets in London. WA however was seen as a spawning ground for new products - a can do culture helped by the low cost of starting business.
Biotech is clearly another success story of a range of innovative companies that commenced in WA and becoming international players.
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