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A Pathway Out of the Pandemic

CSL CEO Paul Perreault talks vaccines, business confidence and innovation at a University of Melbourne event.

virtual panel at the University of Melbourne with CSL CEO Paul Perreault

We can’t forget the lessons learned during the pandemic.

That was the message from CSL Limited CEO Paul Perreault at a panel discussion last week at The University of Melbourne in Australia. Perreault, who attended virtually from the United States, spoke to an audience of more than 800 people, alongside prominent Australian epidemiologist Professor Sharon Lewin and The University of Melbourne Vice-Chancellor Professor Duncan Maskell.

The conversation, which included business students and journalists, focused on the global pandemic response and the unique challenges Australia faces on the road to recovery. The country has had few COVID-19 cases compared to other parts of the world, securing itself by closing borders and instituting lockdowns. CSL is playing a key role in the country by manufacturing millions of doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine.

Perreault said he’s eager to return to Australia. In a wide-ranging conversation that covered topics such as sustainability, policy, innovation and global supply chains, Perreault emphasized the monumental contribution science has made to the global pandemic fight, even as he acknowledged the company tried a few research directions that didn’t reach their endpoints. The bright spot is CSL now knows how resilient and flexible it can be – how to temporarily shift resources without disrupting the whole organization.

“Crisis helps breed trailblazers and ingenuity. It’s been really inspirational to see that, but we can’t forget about this as we recover,” he said.

Companies must continue to invest in their pipelines, their capabilities, and their people, Perreault said, indicating that the private sector was ready to do this with capital that went unspent during the pandemic. At the same time, governments must play their part in building a sustainable biotech sector that can continue to compete on the global stage.

“We need consistent policies regardless of who’s in power to stimulate science,” he said, citing the recently announced “patent box” proposal in Australia as one example. The incentive aims to encourage innovation by reducing the business tax rate on income earned from patented technology.

Perreault was also asked about the lessons CSL has learned as an organization over the last 18 months. His response focused on the resilience CSL’s people have shown, the benefit of global collaboration as well as the organization’s strong commitment to its values.

“This long-standing human health commitment is what forms the DNA of the company,” he said.

Finally, when asked about a global recovery Perreault expressed his optimism, “I’m not sure we are out of it tomorrow, but over the next 12 months we will really start to see businesses start to invest again. But we need people to continue to get vaccinated,” he said.