100 years and just getting started
100 years ago the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories was established to protect the health of a nation
Today CSL is a global biotherapeutics leader, delivering innovative medicines to patients and populations all over the world. We are proud to share stories from our journey and to celebrate those who have contributed along the way. Our past achievements inspire our future and our promise to save and improve lives continues to drive us. In fact, in many ways, we’re just getting started.
1915. A young nation is being blooded in war. The supply of vital medicines from overseas can no longer be guaranteed. The country must stand on its own. A decision is made. The Australian government will establish a facility to produce vaccines, sera and antitoxins. Dr William Penfold, an esteemed bacteriologist working at Britain’s Lister Institute, is asked to lead the new organisation. He accepts and on 25 April 1916, Commonwealth Serum Laboratories (CSL) is born.
Over the ensuing years CSL provides Australians with rapid access to 20th century medical advances including insulin and penicillin, and vaccines against influenza, polio and other infectious diseases. It develops uniquely Australian medicines like snake antivenoms, helps to protect Australia from influenza pandemics and ensures the nation has its own supply of life-saving plasma therapies. Its animal health products guard Australia’s agricultural interests. Pressures during the 70s and 80s see government-run laboratories around the world being shut down. The Australian government takes a different approach, listing CSL on the Australian Stock Exchange. To survive, the company expands internationally, buying an affiliate of the Swiss Red Cross and a global plasma company linked to Nobel Prize winner, Emil von Behring. Much loved parts of the business are bade farewell as CSL looks for greater focus.
Today, CSL is a leading global biotherapeutics company, employing over 16,000 people in more than 30 countries. With greater, targeted spending on research and development, it has created a rich pipeline of promising medicines for the future.Throughout is 100 year journey, CSL has remained proudly Australian and stayed true to its promise of saving and protecting lives. These are the qualities that have helped CSL become the truly global success story it is today.
Discover our history by exploring some of our key milestones over the last century.
Leading the herd
Protecting Australia from its venomous creatures
CSL's first real test
A world first
Providing rapid access to important medical breakthroughs
Plasma Protein Therapies
It’s in our blood