About AusBiotech - Hall of Fame


Honorary Life Members of AusBiotech Posthumous Recognition of Industry Contribution Past Chairs/Presidents of AusBiotech & ABA


AusBiotech marks 30 years

From its humble beginnings more than a quarter of a century ago with less than 100 members, AusBiotech has grown alongside and in support of Australia biotechnology sector to membership strength of over 3,000.

As a result of Australia’s talent, biotechnology innovation in Australia has been ranked in the global top five for three consecutive years. The sector’s quality is both globally recognised and reflected in major deals, strengthening a dynamic industry that is attracting record-breaking deal flow. Read about the achievements of Australian biotech in AusBiotech's 30 success stories

AusBiotech began as the Australian Biotechnology Association, which was incorporated as a Company Limited by Guarantee on 24 December 1985 and was given the seal of National Companies and Securities Commission on 31 December 1985.

The ABA’s original charter and services included the national conference, advocacy, a register and newsletters, all of which still exist, but have grown in stature and have been complemented with a significant range of added services and events, such as investment meetings and business missions, media profile and regular submissions to government on a raft of public policy issues.

The first formal meeting of the ABA was on 21 February 1986 in Melbourne. According to the first ABA Bulletin (which later became the journal Australasian Biotechnology), by April 1986 the ABA had 94 members and Dr Martin Playne (then from the CSIRO) was the number one member, Chairman and Principal Executive Officer and also the editor of the ABA Bulletin.

As a result 2016 will be a year of celebrations, with a special edtion of the AusBiotech journal Australian Biotechnology and a gala luncheon.


Honorary Life Members of AusBiotech

Dr Martin Playne

Dr Playne is thought of as the founder of the Australian Biotechnology Association (ABA), which is today known as AusBiotech. He was the number one member as well as the appointed Chairman and Principal Executive Officer for five years. Martin stepped down from the Board in 1990, but has continued his involvement to this day. He was elected to the Board in the first elections in 1986 and appointed Chairman and President, continuing on the Board of Directors following ABA’s first board elections. For 18 years Martin was editor of the ABA’s and AusBiotech’s publications, from 1986 to 2004.

Dr Playne’s career began as a research scientist with CSIRO and from 1965 until 1977 he was involved in tropical pasture chemistry and ruminant nutrition in Townsville. He then dedicated research to liquid fuels from ligno-cellulosic biomass by fermentation at Melbourne until 1982. He later focused on high-value chemicals and polymers by microbial fermentation and functional foods, including oligosaccharides by enzymic synthesis and probiotic bacteria and development of improved strains and health efficacy, until 1999.

Dr Playne’s professional career included collaboration with the CRC on Food Innovation staff (CSIRO 3 Divisions, UNSW, DSM, Arnotts, Goodman Fielder, Burns Philp), and he was Program Leader with Probiotics from 1994 until 1999. Martin says he likes to think of himself as a microbial biochemist with an international reputation and part of the international community of scientists. “I highly value the development of a good research team, run on democratic principles, supportive of and loyal to each other,” he says.

Dr Playne was from 2000 to 2009 Director of Melbourne Biotechnology, a small consulting business providing services primarily in functional foods and specifically in probiotics and oligosaccharides as prebiotics – and closed the business in 2009. Since then he has continued to do some scientific writing and peer-review articles in international scientific journals in his retirement and enjoys doing some historical research and writing, dinghy sailing, hiking, playing grandparent, gardening, and volunteering on a couple of committees. Dr Playne is an Honorary Life Member of AusBiotech (bestowed in 2000).

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Dr Peter Riddles

Peter was President of the Australian Biotechnology Association (ABA) from 2000, when he chaired the Steering Committee that recommended and oversaw the transition to AusBiotech, and became the inaugural President of AusBiotech. He was elected as a Director of ABA in 1995 and continued to serve AusBiotech’s Board until 2004. He was responsible for chairing the Forum at ABA2000 where the decision was made to appoint a Steering Committee to investigate the transition of the organisation.

Peter retired as President of AusBiotech in November 2004 and was recognised by his efforts through Honorary Life Membership. During the time of AusBiotech’s initiation, Peter separately worked with Austrade and Invest Australia, establishing coordinated international marketing efforts for biotechnology, initially through BENC (Biotechnology Events National Committee), which later morphed into the Committee for Marketing Australian Biotechnology (CMAB).

After leaving CSIRO as Executive Director of its Bioactive Molecules Discovery Program, he became, in 2000, a full time Executive with IMBcom Pty Ltd based at the University of Queensland, and a Director of several of its start-up companies, where he worked until 2006.

Peter retired from IMBcom to establish his own businesses, where he remains today. Through his company ViciBio, Peter works with governments and economic regions on innovation and strategies for industry growth, and works with new ventures and universities in innovation and commercialisation.

He has been involved on the boards of many emerging companies including as Foundation Chair of Healthlinx Ltd and Dosimetry & Imaging Pty Ltd, and on the boards of several industry joint ventures including as Director of the Australian Stem Cell Centre Ltd and Chairman of Wound Management Innovation Pty Ltd.
Today, after being appointed to the Industry Research and Development Board and Chairing the Biological Committee, Peter remains a member of the Board of Innovation Australia and is Chair of that Board’s Innovation Grants Committee.

In 2010, he was awarded the Life Sciences Industry Excellence Award for his contribution to the Queensland Industries.

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Dr Anna Lavelle

After more than 11 years of service to the Australian biotechnology industry, it was announced at the AusBiotech 30th anniversary luncheon that Dr Lavelle would hand over the leadership of the organisation and be conferred a Life Membership in recognition of her excellent service to biotechnology and her meritorious service to AusBiotech.

“Anna is respected, visionary and eminent, as well as talented, tenacious and a dedicated advocate for our industry and we have been very fortunate to have her expertise,” said AusBiotech Chairman Julie Phillips.

AusBiotech has gone from strength to strength under Dr Lavelle’s leadership. Her achievements during her time as CEO included the delivery to the industry of the landmark reform, the Research and Development (R&D) Tax Incentive.

With her detailed understanding of the biotech ecosystem and the interdependence of its different components, Dr Lavelle led AusBiotech in representing virtually every aspect of the value chain, from commercialisation through to policy.

In 2015, Dr Anna Lavelle was named among the 100 most influential people in global life sciences, as determined through nominations and selections from an international panel of experts and peers and reported in Scientific American Worldview: A Global Biotechnology Perspective (2015).

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Posthumous Recognition of Industry Contribution

Vale Dr Paul Walton (1956 - 2013)

It is with immense sadness that AusBiotech acknowledge the passing of friend and former board member, Dr Paul Walton, in October 2013.

AusBiotech extends sincere condolences to his wife Suzanne, his family and colleagues at CSL.

“Dr Walton’s contribution to the AusBiotech board provided invaluable leadership to our industry over the last few years, and great support to his fellow board members. He provided wisdom and insight to help us develop the industry and he will be sadly missed,” said Dr Deborah Rathjen, Chairman of AusBiotech.

Dr Anna Lavelle, CEO of AusBiotech said: “Paul offered his support to me generously and provided sound advice about many issues. He was also a good friend and will be missed by many. Paul dedicated his working life to the biotechnology sector and we acknowledge his contributions. A fierce intellect, energetic and passionate - rest in peace.”

Dr Paul Walton was the Senior Vice President of Corporate Development at CSL, based in Parkville, Victoria. Dr Walton’s role at CSL included responsibility for corporate strategy, opportunities for corporate growth including mergers & acquisitions, and was Secretary of the CSL Board Innovation and Development Committee.

Dr Walton joined CSL in 1999 and has held various roles in CSL businesses in the USA including CSL Diagnostics and JRH Biosciences in Kansas City, and ZLB Bioplasma in Glendale, California. In these roles Dr Walton worked on acquisitions and mergers of the foundation organisations that formed CSL Behring, particularly the Aventis Behring acquisition where he managed the integration process. Before taking his current role in 2008 he was the Senior Vice President for Business Development at CSL Behring’s USA headquarters in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania.

Prior to joining CSL Dr Walton held research and management roles at Genentech Inc. in San Francisco, Diagnostic Systems Ltd in Houston, GroPep Pty Ltd in Adelaide and the CSIRO. He held a PhD and Master’s degrees from the Pennsylvania State University and a Graduate Certificate from the Australian Graduate School of Management.

Dr Walton joined the board of AusBiotech, while Senior Vice-President of Corporate Development at CSL, in October 2010, and retired in October 2012.

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Emeritus Professor Nancy F Millis AC, MBE, MAgr Sc, PhD, DSc, FTSE (1922 - 2012)

Professor Nancy Millis photographed with Professor John Shine at the AusBiotech 25 Year Gala Dinner event in 2011

Nancy Millis is one of the pioneers of the study of fermentation technology in Australia. Prof Millis’ areas of interest lie in the general field of biotechnology, more specifically in fermentation, wastewater and environmental biotechnology. Having attained a Master of Agricultural Science (MAgSc) at the University of Melbourne, and then a PhD from Bristol University, Prof Millis was appointed to the position of Lecturer in the Microbiology department at the University of Melbourne from 1953 until 1982, during which time she was awarded a Fulbright travel grant (1954). In 1982, she was made a Professor of Microbiology at the University of Melbourne, a position that she held until 1987. In 1988 she was made Emeritus Professor of the University of Melbourne.

During her career she was appointed MBE - Member of The Order of the British Empire (Civil) - 31 December 1976 for her work in biological sciences and education and appointed AC - Companion of the Order of Australia - 11 June 1990. She is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, and an Honorary Life Member of the Australian Society for Microbiology and of AusBiotech Ltd. From 1981-2001 she chaired the Commonwealth government's agency for the surveillance of genetic engineering.

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Dr Andrew Baker (1961 - 2012)

In 2012, the biotechnology industry was shocked and saddened by the passing of Dr Andrew Baker, a veteran of the biotechnology and pharmaceuticals industries.

Dr Baker had been a partner with GBS Ventures since 2002, and had sat on the board of several biotechnology companies, including Hatchtech, Spinifex, Verva, Euthymics and Xenome.

Dr Baker led the initial GBS Venture Partners’ investment in Spinifex that, along with parallel investments from UIIT and Symbiosis, established the company and set Spinifex on the path to develop innovative pain medicines. He was a founding Board member of Spinifex Pharmaceuticals and Chairman through to December 2011.

He had over 28 years’ experience in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, and had worked for companies such as Genentech, Bayer and Johnson & Johnson. He was involved in founding of several listed companies and assisting them with commercial growth and product development, combining his scientific and industry expertise.

Dr Baker held a Bachelor of Science with Honours in genetics from the University of Sydney, and completed his PhD at the Australian National University.

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Dr Michael Hirshorn OAM (1950 - 2011)

In 2011 AusBiotech and the biotechnology community joined family and friends in mourning the loss of significant leader in the Australian biotechnology industry, Dr Mike Hirshorn, Director of Sydney-based Four Hats Capital.

A strong supporter of AusBiotech and its work, Dr Hirshorn has been a member since 2001. His contribution to the industry was highly respected, as a founder and CEO of Cochlear, and a founding director of ResMed.

In 1988 he won BRW Businessman of the Year (Technology) for establishing Cochlear in the US Europe and Japan and in 2004 Mike was awarded an Order of Australia Medal for his work in commercialising medical technology.

Dr Hirshorn had a 30 year career of founding, building, managing industry heavyweights and investing in technology companies.

Dr Hirshorn had significant international management expertise in all operational areas from manufacturing to research and development, intellectual property, worldwide marketing and sales, regulatory affairs, government relations, business development and developing strategic alliances with major multinationals.

As a private equity investor, Dr Hirshorn raised funds, invested in companies, played a hands-on role in their growth and achieved exits and IPOs. Mike was been a director on the board of many companies including six portfolio companies, including Dynamic Hearing, LBT Innovations and TGR BioSciences.

AusBiotech CEO Dr Anna Lavelle said: “We are deeply saddened by the news of Mike’s passing. The biotechnology, science and business communities will feel this loss acutely given his active presence and enormous contribution.”

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Dr Michael Dalling AM (1946 - 2010)

In 2010 the biotechnology community mourned the loss of Dr Mike Dalling, a pioneering biotechnology scientist and business leader in Australia, who passed away suddenly.

A strong supporter of AusBiotech and its work, Dr Dalling’s companies were AusBiotech members. His contribution to research and development of biotechnology and its commercialisation in Australia was well known and highly respected.

Dr Dalling had worked for many years on the transfer of gene-technology into floriculture, and headed, as MD, the first biotechnology company, Calgene Pacific which worked on producing the previously elusive “blue” rose and carnation. The company later became Florigene, which has recently commercialised the blue carnation.

Dr Dalling led the Victorian Government’s Strategic Industry Research Foundation (SIRF) for many years, where he assisted Victoria’s manufacturing industries. Under his leadership, SIRF coordinated the creation of the Australian “concept” car, pioneered the creation of value from research initiatives and developed a number of alternative business models, including ceramic fuel cells. While at SIRF, it was with his influence that Victoria became a major supporter of the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) initiative commenced during the Hawke Government and which continues to this day.

As chairman, director and in advisory roles, Dr Dalling contributed to many public, private and not-for-profit organisations, including Nufarm Ltd, the Lighthouse Foundation, the Medical Imaging CRC, Victoria University, Benitec, Neural Diagnostics, the Birchip Cropping Group, Cougar Energy and Biomass Conversion Technologies. He had also spent many years as a senior academic in the School of Agriculture at Melbourne University.

AusBiotech CEO Dr Anna Lavelle said: “The biotechnology, science and business communities alike have experienced a great loss with the passing of Mike Dalling. His legacy remains in the companies, organsations and in the industry that he worked tirelessly to develop for the public good.”

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Gregory Terence Lonergan (1957 – 2006)

AusBiotech members will be deeply saddened at the premature death of Greg Lonergan, one of the founding members of the Association.

Greg was born in Perth forty nine years ago. He attended the University of Western Australia after matriculating as top student at Narrogin Agricultural Senior High School in the grain and livestock belt where he was also school captain. During this period he was a delegate to the United Nations Dag Hammarskjöld Conference in Adelaide. At University he began a medical course but later changed to science and graduated with first class honours in biochemistry. After graduation he was employed by CSR in Perth and later moved to Melbourne with the same company.

In 1983 he was appointed tutor in biochemistry at Swinburne University of Technology which had developed a course based on fermentation, industrial biochemistry and microbiology. His industrial experience was invaluable in this course. Within a short period he was promoted to lecturer and then senior lecturer and contributed to the teaching and research in biological aspects of waste management, an area where he was to work for the remainder of his career.

He established an affiliation with the Swinburne Centre for Applied Colloid Science and subsequently, due to the expansion of biologically based projects, this centre was renamed as the Centre for Applied Colloid and Biocolloid Science. His interests in waste management encompassed specific topics such as biological methods of detection of toxic compounds, detoxification of toxic materials using biological based systems, decolouration of industrial based dyes, scale up fermentation techniques, the role of manganese peroxidase, lignin peroxidase and laccase and other enzymes in detoxification mechanisms and the chemistry and biology of compost and its possible use in biodegradation.

Within the centre he commenced a PhD project related to biological degradation of organic dyes and particularly remazol brilliant blue R. The project encompassed an examination of the growth parameters leading to maximum enzyme yield of his freshly isolated, high laccase-producing fungus which he identified as Pycnoporus cinnabarinus. Problems associated with scale up from bench to large scale fermentation were also examined,

Greg also had extensive involvement with Visy Industries and the Co-operative Research Centre for International Food Manufacturing and Packaging Science. Projects undertaken included the enzymatic de-inking and enzyme assisted watering of recycled paper products and degradation of recalcitrant polymeric material. A project of particular interest which he supervised was associated with development of biodegradable polymers.

His interests included the Australian Biotechnology Association founded in 1986. He was a foundation member, its inaugural treasurer and served terms on state committees once they were established. At the time of his passing the Association (now named AusBiotech) was flourishing.

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