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CSL CEO: Keep Flexing the Adaptability Muscle

Lean into the momentum and innovation that the global pandemic inspired, CSL CEO Paul Perreault told attendees of The Economic Times Global Business Summit.


After the last two punishing years, no one could be blamed for wanting a return to “normal.” But that’s not the target CSL CEO Paul Perreault has in mind, he said at The Economic Times Global Business Summit, an annual gathering of thought leaders organized by India’s largest media conglomerate.

“Returning to normal is something we hear often – but it’s not really where we want to be. Returning to normal will stifle progress, and even harm our future,” Perreault said in a virtual address. “We must harness this momentum to help tackle some of the most difficult challenges we’re yet to face. The makings of it are there.”

The COVID-19 crisis forced innovation and collaboration that delivered with the quick and successful development of vaccines and treatments. Without sacrificing safety, regulators then fast-tracked the approval of these critical vaccines and medicines, said Perreault. CSL, a global biotech leader with more than 25,000 employees that provides medicines in over 100 countries, helped manufacture AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine in Australia while continuing to produce flu vaccines and keep developing and manufacturing medicines that treat primary immunodeficiencies, hemophilia and other serious and rare conditions.

“Those (COVID-19) approvals were a result of prioritization, reduction of bureaucracy and importantly, digitization of old processes. These are lessons learned we must carry forward beyond the pandemic,” Perreault said.

In his remarks, Perreault acknowledged the role India has played in the pandemic, specifically through its vaccine manufacturing capabilities. Since 2015, The Economic Times Global Business Summit has brought together thought leaders, government officials and heads of industry to confront macroeconomic challenges and chart a course for growth. This year, Perreault was among summit speakers that included the CEOs of Visa, Walmart, Deloitte, Adobe and Netflix.

He told attendees that CSL stands at a transformative moment in its history as it pursues:

  • a potential gene therapy for patients with hemophilia B
  • a potential therapy that could reduce the risk of recurrent cardiovascular events following a heart attack, now in Phase 3 clinical trials
  • a next-generation, self-amplifying mRNA for seasonal and pandemic influenza

It’s time, not only for blue sky thinking, but for getting to work so that we can meet the high standards for scientific progress set by the global pandemic, Perreault said. He pointed to CSL programs that pair up academic researchers with CSL innovators who know how to take an idea from “bench to bedside.” The company is catalyzing these relationships in multiple locations from Melbourne, Australia, to Boston, Massachusetts, to Bern, Switzerland, he said.

CSL is also paying attention in a deeper way to the experiences people have with the company. This includes thousands of plasma donors as CSL has more than 300 collection centers in the United States, Europe and China. The plasma CSL collects goes exclusively to make life-saving medicines for patients. In a gig economy, plasma donors have other options and that’s why CSL is focusing on the experience donors have when they visit.

“One way we are attracting more donors to our centers, is improving that experience when they do give up their precious time. We have a massive digital program aimed at a consistent experience for donors,” Perreault said.

And CSL, driven by its promise to patients, must bring digital advances to them as well, he said. Clinical trial participants, in particular, can benefit from pandemic-inspired innovations like remote monitoring, video visits and mobile nursing care. If trials get more convenient for patients – if we can take steps like shipping trial medicine to their homes instead of making them travel far distances – we’ll learn faster and, ultimately, deliver more solutions for patients, Perreault said.

“I am positive about the tidal wave of progress that will build off the lessons learned from the pandemic, and power a further resurgence of medical science,” he said.