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Research is tough, success is stupendous

Andrew Nash, CSL’s Chief Scientific Officer, is a busy man. He has his arms around 25 or 30 ongoing research projects spanning five therapeutic areas ...

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Chief Scientific Officer Andrew Nash speaks at a meeting before the pandemic
Andrew Nash in a meeting before COVID-19

Andrew Nash, CSL’s Chief Scientific Officer, is a busy man. He has his arms around 25 or 30 ongoing research projects spanning five therapeutic areas and three strategic platforms – plasma fractionation, recombinant protein technology plus cell and gene therapy.

At the same time he’ll be managing a team of scientists, devising budgets and making tough decisions. But even on his most challenging day, there’s an easy way to catch his attention and brighten his mood: Just show him some positive data.

“All of a sudden the whole week is good again,” he said.

Andrew, who earned his doctorate in immunology from the University of Melbourne, in Australia, recalls standing by a printer spitting out results about a potential new product. They hit the mark.

“It’s just so exciting. It’s these little moments,” Nash said. “Research is tough. It’s not an easy area. The successes, when they happen, can be stupendous and really motivating.”

Andrew started out in academic research and once led a research group focused on cytokine biology. Cytokines, small proteins that are part of the immune response, have been in the news lately for their role in COVID-19.

Early on, he spent nine years at the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Animal Biotechnology before switching to industry. He joined the company as senior vice president of research in 2006 when CSL bought Zenyth, a small biotech business, where he had risen to CEO.

It’s a role he has held ever since, even after adding chief scientific officer to his responsibilities in 2020.

He remembers being anxious about the move, but it turned into a blessing when the financial crisis of 2008 hit, he said.  CSL’s research team is now bigger than it’s ever been and the attitude to new products and innovations is ambitious.

“I have a fantastic team I can absolutely rely on,” Andrew said. “The most important objective is to move the project forward, to have it leave research and move to clinical development.

“Our early stage pipeline is full of opportunities, but it needs to be continually refreshed and expanded if we want to deliver outcomes for our patients in such a competitive environment. I think we have a very talented group of both young and more experienced scientists that can deliver on that objective.”

To prospective employees, he says young scientists can seize the moment in an organisation open to fresh perspectives. He said: “If you have a good idea, we want to hear about it.”

Another selling point, he said, is the company’s focus on developing medicines for people who have rare and serious diseases.

“It’s not trivial illnesses we’re trying to treat,” he said. “The outcome of your work can have a significant impact.”

 

GBR-CRP-0116 February 2021