The third in AIBN’s Thought Leaders’ dinner series took place at Customs House in Brisbane on the evening of Thursday 15 March. Attendees at the dinner (40 in total) included a strong contingent of senior members of AIBN staff, along with guests representing executive management from a range of local, interstate and international companies.

Special guest speaker for the night was Ms Lucy Turnbull, AO. In introducing Ms Turnbull, AIBN Director Peter Gray noted the extensive breadth of her experience and achievements, ranging from law to investment banking to company directorships to being Sydney’s first female Lord Mayor (2003-2004). In the context of technology commercialisation, one of Ms Turnbull’s current roles is that of Chairman of the ASX-listed development company, Prima Biomed Ltd. Prima is developing a new immunotherapy for the treatment of ovarian cancer, based on technology originally out of Austin Research Institute in Melbourne.

Ms Turnbull’s speech covered both her direct experience with Prima, as well as her thoughts more generally on the development and commercialisation of science. Ms Turnbull described how she initially became an investor in Prima, based on the enthusiasm and persistence of the CEO. Then, as she became more familiar with the company, she took the decision to become more directly involved. A significant factor in this decision was the quality and passion of the key people in the company. During the course of her speech it showed through very clearly that, as Chairman, Ms Turnbull was as strong reflection of such quality and passion.

In the broader context of creating an environment that supports the development of innovative products, Ms Turnbull highlighted the challenges of an industry consisting of small, underfunded companies. She noted that biotechnology was just a ‘blip’ in the overall value of the Australian industrial sector. She advocated support for local advanced manufacturing, for technology to be nurtured rather than being pushed too early into spin-out companies, and for processes to encourage superannuation funds to invest in early-stage, innovative companies.

Ms Turnbull’s address was followed by a vigorous question and answer session, for which she invited Prima’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Neil Fraser, to join the podium. The formal Q and A session was brought to a close with a well-earned vote of thanks from AIBN Deputy Director (Commercialisation), Dr Ian Nisbet. However, significant discussion continued at each of the tables over the remainder of the dinner.

Feedback from the event was very positive, with follow-up meetings between AIBN and several of the companies in attendance already scheduled. The next dinner in the Thought Leaders’ series will be held towards the end of the year.

About IAP Events

Events for the AIBN Industrial Affiliates Program. Click on a past event to view the event report.