The fourth in AIBN’s Thought Leaders’ dinner series took place at Customs House in Brisbane on the evening of Thursday 12 July. Attendees at the dinner 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 Dr Peter Farrell, Chairman and CEO of Resmed, Inc. In introducing Dr Farrell, AIBN Director Professor Peter Gray noted that he had been the first person on our list of potential Thought Leader speakers but that it had taken 18 months to find a date that coincided with his travel to Australia. Professor Gray also noted that Dr Farrell was one of a very select group of scientists who had been successful as an academic, a large company executive and an entrepreneur. As such, he was a perfect person to speak in the Thought Leader dinner series.

Dr Farrell began his presentation by offering some thoughts on entrepreneurship and innovation. One of his quotations resonated very well with at least some of the AIBN group leaders in attendance – it came from former MIT professor, Dr Michael Hammer and began “The best qualification for innovation is a basic degree in engineering.” Of course, there were some of us in the audience who weren’t quite so embracing of this perspective!

Dr Farrell went on to describe the origins of Resmed. The original technology was out of the laboratory of Professor Colin Sullivan at the University of Sydney Medical School. Dr Farrell, who was looking for projects to incorporate into the Baxter Center for Medical Research (BCMR) in Sydney, became convinced that obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) was an important but under-recognised medical condition. Baxter picked up the Sullivan technology but ultimately decided that OSA was outside its core areas of interest. Dr Farrell orchestrated a management buy-out of the technology and so Resmed came into existence.

During the remainder of the presentation Dr Farrell provided some facts and figures about the growth of the Resmed business and then proceeded to persuade the audience that OSA was a medical condition that should concern us all. He presented a compelling array of facts and figures, leaving no-one in the room with any doubt about either his detailed understanding of the disease or his passion for seeing it treated.

Dr Farrell’s presentation was followed by a lively question and answer session, which had to be cut short (as usual) to allow for the serving of dessert. Discussion continued over the remainder of the dinner and, for some of the more hardy souls, long into the evening. The formal Q and A session was brought to a close with a vote of thanks from AIBN Deputy Director (Commercialisation), Dr Ian Nisbet.

Feedback from the event was again very positive, reinforcing the Thought Leaders’ dinners as a valued element of AIBN’s industry engagement activities. The next dinner in the series is planned for the first half of 2013.

About IAP Events

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