Shine on: CSL’s lead­ing light to de­part

The vet­eran ex­its af­ter more than a decade at the helm


Tears spring to the eyes of John Shine, the out­go­ing chair­man of CSL, as he talks of the thou­sands of lives the Aus­tralian biotech’s prod­ucts are fun­da­men­tally chang­ing.

Shine’s pas­sion for the com­pany and its sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on pa­tients runs deep. It is a pas­sion he will take with him as de­parts from the board on Wed­nes­day at CSL’s an­nual gen­eral meet­ing in Mel­bourne. “I’ve had a nice ride,” Shine tells The Week­end Aus­tralian.

It has also been a nice ride for share­hold­ers. When the pro­fes­sor joined CSL in June 2006, the share price of the biotech was $17. It was $28 when he be­came chair­man in Oc­to­ber 2011 and as he leaves, it sits around $185.50, hav­ing hit a high of $230 in Septem­ber this year.

“It has been a won­der­ful jour­ney for me and I have been in­cred­i­bly for­tu­nate,” the 72-yearold says.

Shine, a hum­ble, quiet man, not overly com­fort­able talk­ing about his huge con­tri­bu­tion to med­i­cal re­search, says he hopes that dur­ing his stew­ard­ship there has been the ap­pro­pri­ate evo­lu­tion of CSL from a largely plasma/protein-driven com­pany to a more com­plete bio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal.

“I have been pleased dur­ing my ten­ure as chair­man at the re­al­i­sa­tion of some of the in­no­va­tion, and all the new prod­ucts we have been pro­duc­ing and the new mar­kets we have been get­ting into,” he says.

Shine says when a ma­jor rev­enue side of the busi­ness — the plasma prod­ucts — does so well, it is easy to just do more of that and make more money. But he says the fo­cus has to be on the fu­ture, as he high­lights the long time frames in bio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal re­search and devel­op­ment.

He points to Idelvion, which he de­scribes as CSL’s first true biotech prod­uct, as an ex­am­ple of that long-term fo­cus. It took 10 years from the early R&D to first sales. The prod­uct pro­vides Hae­mophilia B pa­tients with a new stan­dard of care.

Shine’s in­ter­est in the im­pact CSL’s prod­ucts have on the lives of thou­sands of peo­ple is ev­i­dent as he be­comes emo­tional when talk­ing about the suc­cess of Idelvion. “You talk to some of these young men who are now on Idelvion who can now play sport … it is emo­tional be­cause it has changed their life and that makes a big dif­fer­ence,” he says.

“We are about the im­prove­ment in qual­ity of life and we see the re­sults.”

Shine’s pas­sion for im­prov­ing lives has not just been at CSL. The in­ter­na­tion­ally ac­claimed sci­en­tist was one of the first re­searchers, decades ago, to clone a hu­man gene, de­vel­op­ing ge­netic en­gi­neer­ing. He was awarded the Com­pan­ion of the Order of Aus­tralia for his con­tri­bu­tion to med­i­cal re­search.

As Shine de­parts CSL, Brian McNamee, who ran the com­pany for 23 years be­fore re­sign­ing in 2013, re­turns as chair, in an al­most po­etic end­ing to their work­ing his­tory.

It was McNamee who in­tro­duced Shine to CSL but it was Shine who first hired McNamee to an Aus­tralian biotech.

Shine, af­ter re­turn­ing to Aus­tralia in the late 1980s af­ter work­ing in the US, hired “a young hot shot, med­i­cally trained en­tre­pre­neur from Ade­laide called Brian McNamee” to head up a biotech he started called Pa­cific Biotech­nol­ogy.

That com­pany was a spin-off of the hugely suc­cess­ful CalBio that Pro­fes­sor Shine had co-founded in the US.

But the Aus­tralian out­fit didn’t work, and as it was wound down, McNamee was head­hunted to take on the then gov­ern­men­towned Com­mon­wealth Serum Lab­o­ra­to­ries.

Shine, who was the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Gar­van In­sti­tute of Med­i­cal Re­search — a po­si­tion he held for 22 years — says McNamee ap­proached him about 12 years ago to join the CSL board.

“I thought CSL was a good op­por­tu­nity to be in­volved in some­thing I hoped would be great for the na­tional in­ter­est,” he says.

Shine adds that while the Com­mon­wealth Serum Lab­o­ra­to­ries had done a fan­tas­tic job in bring­ing med­i­cal dis­cov­er­ies into Aus­tralia to pro­tect the Aus­tralian pop­u­la­tion, he could see that McNamee planned to trans­form the com­pany as he took it pri­vate. “Brian was turn­ing it around and mak­ing sure that CSL was go­ing to grow and take med­i­cal dis­cov­er­ies from Aus­tralia to the world,” he says. “It was a fun­da­men­tal change in the strat­egy of the or­gan­i­sa­tion and that at­tracted me.”

Shine says as he joined the board the com­pany had just gone through ma­jor ac­qui­si­tions that set the com­pany on the global path it has con­tin­ued to ex­pand on.

“It was clearly on a fan­tas­tic tra­jec­tory. I have enor­mous re­spect for Brian, which is why I joined the board,” he says.

The re­spect is mu­tual and McNamee says Shine has been an ex­tra­or­di­nary cus­to­dian of CSL.

He says the com­pany has been priv­i­leged to have some­one of his cal­i­bre steer it through a pe­riod of trans­for­ma­tive growth and suc­cess.

“As John hands over the chair­man­ship he leaves a sig­nif­i­cant le­gacy that is par­tic­u­larly re­flec­tive of his deep pas­sion for in­no­va­tion, which I be­lieve is at the heart of the com­pany’s con­tin­ued suc­cess,” McNamee says.

“I have the deep­est ad­mi­ra­tion for his con­tri­bu­tion not only to CSL, but to sci­ence and medicine as one of the early pi­o­neers of the global biotech­nol­ogy in­dus­try.”

Shine re­calls that one of the early chal­lenges for the com­pany and board when he joined was how to ef­fec­tively in­te­grate the ac­qui­si­tion tar­gets and make them feel part of CSL.

“That in­te­gra­tion was the real chal­lenge for CSL and they did it mag­nif­i­cently,” he says. When it was time to take on the role of chair, Shine says the tim­ing was right, as he had al­ready de­cided at that point to step down as ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Gar­van.

“My ap­point­ment as chair sig­nalled that CSL was def­i­nitely go­ing to main­tain a strong com­mit­ment to in­no­va­tion and R&D as op­posed to just sell­ing prod­ucts,” he says.

Shine be­lieves the board should be proud of the suc­ces­sion of chief ex­ec­u­tive from McNamee to Paul Per­reault.

“The tran­si­tion from Brian and Paul went seam­lessly,” he says

“For me there were two things as chair­man that made me confident that Paul Per­rault was the right choice. One was I knew Paul well enough to know he was smart, knew the busi­ness and was an eth­i­cal per­son.

“The other thing that per­suaded me, given my high re­gard for Brian, was Brian was the cham­pion of Paul be­com­ing the new CEO. It was clear Paul was the best choice.”

Per­reault says Shine has been an ex­cep­tional stew­ard of the com­pany’s growth, be­com­ing a true global leader for treat­ing peo­ple with rare and se­ri­ous diseases.

“The hall­mark of his chair­man­ship has been his quiet and stead­fast com­mit­ment to fur­ther­ing CSL’s en­deav­ours in de­vel­op­ing new prod­ucts and mar­kets so that pa­tients can live bet­ter lives,” he says.

“This pa­tient fo­cus is em­bed­ded right through the com­pany. John’s sci­en­tific expertise has been in­valu­able for in­form­ing our R&D ex­pan­sion.”

Shine says it’s time to step down be­cause 12.5 years on a board is long enough.

“I have seen in my role at CSL the im­por­tance of diver­sity on the board,” he says.

“You can­not over­es­ti­mate hav­ing di­verse skills, back­grounds, per­son­al­i­ties and views on life. And diver­sity ex­tends to length of time. You re­ally need fresh ideas and fresh skills com­ing in.”

As he steps down, Shine says he wants to see CSL con­tinue to be suc­cess­ful as he cham­pi­ons an iconic Aus­tralian suc­cess story that is not widely ap­pre­ci­ated.

“They know the banks, Qan­tas, BHP … but they don’t re­ally know CSL,” he says.

“It is such a fan­tas­tic Aus­tralian suc­cess story. It truly is a case where Aus­tralia has con­quered the world. We are one of the world’s lead­ing bio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies and the fu­ture is so bright. We have so many op­por­tu­ni­ties. I want to see CSL con­tinue that suc­cess.”

Shine is not big on lega­cies but he says if there is one thing he hopes he is recog­nised for in his ten­ure as chair of CSL, it is fo­cus­ing on in­no­va­tion for pa­tients. He humbly adds that that was easy, be­cause ev­ery­one else at the com­pany wanted the same thing.

He is not one to com­pletely re­tire. As Shine puts it: “If you’re a sci­en­tist, it’s one of those ca­reers that when you re­tire, you can indulge your­self in the sci­ence.”

He plans to indulge in a lit­tle lab he has in the Gar­van where he is work­ing on kid­ney ge­net­ics, solv­ing is­sues for fam­i­lies who have a par­tic­u­lar in­her­ited kid­ney dis­ease. “It is not Noble Prize stuff but it’s fun,” he says. “We are still in an era of sci­ence where ev­ery day there is a new ex­cit­ing dis­cov­ery. It might not be big but it is some­thing new you did not know be­fore and that is very stim­u­lat­ing.”

‘I thought CSL was a good op­por­tu­nity to be in­volved in some­thing I hoped would be great for the na­tional in­ter­est’ JOHN SHINE OUT­GO­ING CSL CHAIR­MAN


Out­go­ing CSL chair­man John Shine: ‘It has been a won­der­ful jour­ney for me and I have been in­cred­i­bly for­tu­nate’

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