Clunies Ross Awards

Clunies Ross Award winners 2013

Dr Anthony Radford, Dr James Rothel, Dr Paul Wood and Dr Stephen Jones

The four researchers have fundamentally changed the way that tuberculosis is diagnosed by inventing and commercialising a revolutionary diagnostic technology that is greatly assisting TB control worldwide.

To market the human test globally they founded the ASX listed company Cellestis, which was generating $50 million in yearly sales when acquired in 2011 by QIAGEN for $380 million.

The technology that the diagnostic test for TB in cattle and humans is based upon was originally invented and developed for diagnosing bovine TBin the 1980s by Dr Paul Wood and the CSIRO TB team under his leadership, including Drs Rothel and Radford.

Subsequently the technology was licensed to CSL Ltd and they marketed a test called Bovigam, which played a role in the successful eradication of bovine TB in Australia. It is widely used overseas and is now licensed to a Swiss company, Prionics.

The team who developed the Bovigam test were awarded the CSIRO Medal for Research Achievement in 1990 and the Australian Society for Microbiology Diagnostic Award in 1993.

In 1996 Dr Rothel joined CSL to lead the development of the bovine test’s technology into a new test for human TB, called QuantiFERON-TB. Dr Wood joined CSL soon after as head of Veterinary R&D, championing Bovigam adoption, and by 2000 also the human diagnostic QuantiFERON-TB.

In 2000, Cellestis was founded by Dr Radford and Dr Rothel to acquire the rights from CSL for the QuantiFERON for their original technology for use in humans, and Cellestis Ltd listed in 2001. Drs Radford and Rothel, as CEO and CSO respectively, with Dr Wood acting as a consultant, took QuantiFERON-TB, to US FDA approval in 2001.

A number of improvements were made by Drs Radford and Rothel at Cellestis, leading to second and then third generation products with improved sensitivity and specificity for Mycobacterium TB infection. These new products have been approved by regulatory bodies worldwide, including the US FDA and the Japanese Ministry of Health.

There are national guidelines for use and application of QuantiFERON-TB in almost all developed countries worldwide. Testament to the global acceptance of Bovigam and QuantiFERON-TB by the veterinary and medical communities is the greater than 800 publications on the tests in peer reviewed journals, with regulatory approval and national guidelines for use in almost all major markets. Currently, approximately 3,000,000 QuantiFERON-TB tests are performed annually.

The Bovigam kit for the animal health market was first manufactured in 1990 by CSL at Parkville and this was the first large-scale enzyme immunoassay they had produced . With the development of the human product QuantiFERON-TB in 1998 and the move to FDA registration, manufacturing standards and control processes had to be increased significantly.

This was an important phase for CSL as they had to establish a fully FDA-compliant manufacturing and quality control process within their Parkville facility. This facility was used for the original FDA registration dossier and CSL was very proud of the clean FDA inspection report they achieved

From 2001 Cellestis Ltd contracted manufacture of QuantiFERON to CSL in Parkville, but on the sale of the CSL veterinary business to Pfizer the manufacturing contract was terminated by Pfizer. As no suitable FDA/PMDA Japan-validated local manufacturer was available, from 2006 Cellestis sub-contracted alternative FDA validated manufacture in the USA.

Drs Radford and Rothel built a worldwide commercial organisation to sell the human test, with the head office in Melbourne. Sales offices were formed in the USA, Europe (Germany), Japan and Singapore.

From 2001 sales doubled yearly from a base of $200,000 to close to $50 million when the company was acquired by QIAGEN in 2011. With dividends paid from 2009, and the acquisition sum of close to $380 million, original shareholders in Cellestis received returns well in excess of 30 per cent per annum, compounding for 10 years on their IPO investment. Under QIAGEN sales have continued to grow in all markets.

Ian T. Croser AM

CEA Technologies was established in 1983, founded by two retired Royal Australian Navy personnel, Ian Croser and David Gaul, with a goal of creating a centre of excellence for the design and support of systems for the Australian Defence Force.

From the outset, CEA Technologies was based on the provision of uncompromising design principles and robust through life system support, this philosophy became an enduring driver of CEA’s business.

“Solutions with Commitment” was established as a pivotal tenet of CEA practices and remains the company’s primary driver in business conduct ensuring that the company continues to be at the forefront of innovation. Throughout its brief history CEA’s achievements have continued to accumulate resulting in the company growing to become an internationally recognised, world-leading radar and communication systems supplier.

The company continually endeavours to expand its reach into the international market and successfully exports to the USA, Europe, the Middle East and Pacific countries. A steady and continuous corporate growth has resulted in a corporate staff of almost 400 people located across its four facilities in Australia (Adelaide, Canberra [HQ], Melbourne and Perth) and one in the USA.

One of the company’s greatest achievements came about in November 2010 when CEA delivered to the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) a world first – the first fourth-generation Active Phased Array Radar (PAR) System to be brought into service anywhere in the world.

Dr Simon Poole and Dr Steven Frisken

Dr Simon Poole has driven the commercialisation of new products and technologies in the optical fibre communications space at many levels; from a fundamental understanding of materials properties to system level innovations such as the Flexgrid technology for optical communications systems.

He has an outstanding track record in research as a (former) academic, with more than 250 published papers stretching back over 25 years. His part in the invention of the Erbium-Doped Fibre Amplifier created a critical component for optical fibre communications systems which is now ubiquitous in such systems.

Similarly, his role in the development and subsequent commercialization of, first, Fibre Bragg Gratings and subsequently LCoS-based Wavelength Selective Switches has not only contributed significantly to the basic understanding of these devices and subsystems but also generated over $500 million of export earnings for Australia.

Dr Poole has been actively involved at all levels of the process from initial idea, through detailed research work in both academia and in industry to forming the companies needed to commercialise the products derived from these ideas and, ultimately, to their commercial success. Even more outstanding is the fact that he has done this not once, but in several areas with a range of different technologies and end markets.

He has assisted in the starting and subsequent funding of at least five other companies, which have raised in total more than $50 million in venture capital funding, and also organises regular seminar series within the University of Sydney, featuring well-known players in the technology commercialisation space, to encourage others to follow in his footsteps.

Dr Poole’s commitment is evident at all stages of his career and through all stages of commercialisation. He moved to Australia from the UK in 1988 to start a new research group, which he built from scratch to more than 50 people in seven years.

He then, at the peak of the group’s success, left to start a company to commercialise the group’s research in Fibre Bragg Gratings.

During the worst ever down-turn in the tech industry, he started another, even more successful company (Engana) in 2001 and still continues to drive this company (now Finisar Australia) into new technology areas and markets, including a recent entry into the medical equipment market.