You are on page 1of 8

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your career path to date?

I initially started doing a degree in sport science so that was wrapped around passion
for the industry itself, particularly sport, and I was involved in that industry for a further 3 years
working and then I went on to do a diploma of secondary education which
I undertook because I needed to extend my skills and knowledge and where I was at with my
career the type of roles I was fulfilling that seemed to be a great opportunity to add another string
to my bow.
Also did it as a fall back as well potentially as a pathway to take to go into that industry if
required.
After spending time working in that field throughout regional Western Australia also
spent some time overseas working I came back, and after some time settling back down I
undertook a Masters in Business Administration, so that was a clear strategic choice to add some
further skills and knowledge around business administration and completing a masters in that
area seemed obviously a logical choice to do that.
That enabled me to elevate myself in some of my career positions to more senior roles and
executive roles and in more recent times Ive added that masters of business administration with
masters of business leadership, and I recognize that was really important because the MBA
provided some really good business accruement but when you take on senior roles leadership is
probably more critical which isnt necessary a high degree of content covered in the MBA, and
undertaking the MBL (masters of business leadership) really strengthened that capacity and
learning around leadership.
What does your company do and can you tell us about the history of your company?
Were a medical research company dominantly, so we undertake research in respiratory diseases
at a basic science level through to the clinical level.
Weve been doing this since 1998, weve had a number of name changes during that time which
is reflective of our organisation was doing.
So what I mean by that in our early stages we were really focusing on asthma and allergy but
weve now grown to a research organisation thats looking at the whole respiratory system so
weve really broadened our role away from one particular disease or an organ such as the lung, to
looking at a whole system.
Were really focused on translational research so taking our learnings from the scientific research
in the laboratory into the clinical setting, and then we also have a commercial arm which is our
clinical trials.
So that clinical trials unit wins contracts with pharmaceutical companies to deliver new
treatments and provide those to patients as per the protocol for the pharmaceutical company trials
to learn how they may progress.
So really completes a full circle of what takes place within research starting at the laboratory
level right through to the final stages when a form of treatment is being created, being trialed and
potentially going out to market for people to access.

How is your company structured or organized and why does it take this form?
Were an independent non-profit organisation so we have our own board, so they are the peak
entity, the organisation itself.
We have a leadership team which is made up of key people from different areas of the
organisation, a director, a clinical director, a deputy director, the executive officer (which is
myself) and our clinical trials manager. Each of those leaders are responsible for the different
core areas of our organisations. So we have three core areas. One being research, the second
being business services and the third being the clinical trials.
Can you describe your role in the company?
My role is the executive officer so Im part of the leadership team reporting to the director and
the board, and I oversee the business services team.
The business services team provide all the administration support to the organisation such as
finance, human resources, risk management, governance but also our marketing, communication,
fund-raising and IT support.
Im also responsible for the day-to-day operations of the organisation as a whole, so I do have
close relationships with the researchers and the heads of those groups, and also the clinical trials
unit as well.
Can you describe your leadership style?
It depends on the situation, but dominantly its more of a democratic and values-based
leadership.
Over time weve probably moved to more of a transformational leadership so encompassing the
broader aspects of whats important with an organisation and setting out mission values.
Its also really important to engage both the followers, both above (below) you, yours peers next
to you and those above you as well.
With leadership it can change on the situation so at times it might be more of a servient
leadership style and at times such as areas of crisis a bit more autocratic as well.
Dominantly what I base my leadership around is that democratic style.
What does good performance mean for you in your position?
Theres two ways of assessing that, I think theres the external assessment that would be taken by
the traditional means of my supervisors so that would be the director and the board.
How I work with them looking at other targets that I need to meet over the coming assessment
period which is probably a 12 month time frame.
But we also implement a 360 review process with our feedback loops so my staff provide me
feedback as well on how Im performing, so theres the external measures that we have in place
on how we can assess our own performance.
Then internally I have my own goals set of what Id like to achieve at an individual level but
what Id like to do with the organisation so, theres not something thats probably written down
and seen in a public sense but certainly those that I create internally for what Id like to achieve.

How does your institute make money or sustain itself financially? What is its
business model?
We are a non-profit and our core business is research so the reason why exist is to support that
core area.
We have three core income streams, one is research grants, and the second is money generated
through the clinical trials unit which is pharmaceutical contracts and the third is fundraising,
membership and donations.
Over the past 5-8 years weve made a strategic shift to move away our dominance on research
grants as a high source of income and try and have more diversity with the other two income
streams.
So as a result over the last three years weve had a particular focus on our strategic growth of
clinical trials so thats grown by about 38% over the last three years.
The next stage is now working on the fundraising, membership & donations.
What is unique or different about your company?
In terms of the translational work we do in respiratory research were probably one of only two
institutes in Australia that really focus on that type of work.
Particularly in Western Australia were probably the peak body in respiratory research as well,
theres no one else in that space.
We also have a very well-recognized internationally clinical trials unit so that relates to our
success in being able to grow over the last three years.
Our performance in winning contracts and recognition with pharmaceutical companies is well
established so that creates a real key point of difference in a marketplace which is highly
competitive to deliver those trials.
Why has your company been so successful?
Passionate people that are committed to respiratory research.
Research is a very challenging field to be involved in, its long hours, fluctuates with high
periods of success but can be some real depths and troughs with failures as well.
Reduced success it means the researchers have to be dedicated, committed and passionate about
the work they do, and wanting to create a change.
Built around that support people whether they be in clinical trials who are passionate about
patient care or those in business services who want to see the lives of people living with a
respiratory condition changed, which makes it a real focus across the whole organisation of why
we exist.
So we want to see people that are living with a respiratory condition have a better life, across all
those different areas of our organisation we all play a role in trying to achieve that.

What are some of the major hurdles that your institute has had to overcome
to arrive at its current form?

Ive probably touched on in terms of the challenge around income streams, so being a research
entity and research focused, there is a requirement to win research grants but the nature of those
is that they are short term, maybe one year out to three years in existence.
The capacity to win those is unreliable, it really depends on a year-to-year basis for the
researchers so for us to continue an existence weve had to carefully look at how do we create a
more sustainable financial model, and as a result of that weve looked at other income streams
such as the clinical trials unit and areas about business services such as fundraising, membership
and donations. So thats been a particular challenge.
Second to that is the retention of quality researchers, given the nature of where we are positioned
globally and with budding researchers coming to the end of their PhD and entering the career, a
lot of them take the opportunity to move over east or overseas, so we do lose those skill sets and
the IP so one of our challenges is to create a real point of difference and put ourselves on the map
as a research organisation that people want to be a part of, and hopefully bring back some of
those leaders that were based in WA back to Perth and be a part of us in the future.
Who uses your company's services and why?
If we talk about services the main one we have available is our clinical trials unit, so that allows
people living with respiratory condition to be involved in our clinical trials.
They do have to volunteer their time which is a major commitment but the opportunity for them
is theyre getting access to new treatments which potentially may not be in the market for
another 5-10 years.
If those treatments can give them a better quality of life thats of significant benefit to them.
So our challenge is to inform people out in the community who may be living with those
respiratory conditions of the opportunities available, and maybe at the same time ensure that
theres a good understanding of what clinical trials are and dispel any myths or concerns that
there may be with being involved in such exercises.
Can you describe the industry within which your company competes? How is this industry
changing?
Were in a medical research industry which is highly competitive, particularly if we take the
view of our research is winning major grants.
The federal government has an annual funding round called NHMRC which all researchers try
and apply and get major grants for, again these can be the one-year or up to three-years in
duration.
They can range in amounts from a couple of hundred thousand dollars to over a million dollars.
They also provide the researchers the opportunity to gain fellowships which supports their
salaries as well.
The challenge that we have with that is Australia like our counterparts in North America, in
Europe, dont invest in research as much, and as a result our pool of funding available to provide
access and grants for our research is quite limited.
To give you an example, when the GFC hit back in 2007-2008 president Obama of the united
states as much as cuts required ring-fenced all research funding to ensure that that area of growth
and development and investment was quarantined, because that was an investment into the US

future, and that really highlights the importance those countries make in research which is
probably unfortunately not the same value thats placed here.
So thats a real challenge for the industry and hence comes back to us and what weve done.
I looked at our sustainable financial model and how we create some diversity with that for longterm stability.
What are some of the important opportunities in your industry?
The greatest opportunities with the research is developing intellectual property, so if you look at
that from a commercial sense and we come back to what we do as a point of difference in the
translational research so taking away from the bench top which is the laboratory to bedside, the
clinical setting, if we can develop new treatments or forms of diagnosis they can be formed into a
potential treatment that pharmaceutical company can take and through their access on a global
basis and trials become a product that may be successful to those particular patients living with
those diseases.
So thats a real commercial outcome that you can get from research itself.
If we come back to why we exist as much as were all passionate about the specific areas of our
work what we have tried to do more so the last 12-18 months is have that common thread of why
we exist and thats embedded in our vision statement which is ensuring that the lives of those
living with respiratory condition is a better one.
So thats the opportunity that were all trying to work towards, is that 1 in 4 Australians
for example are living with a lung condition so theres a lot of people out there who either have a
condition themselves which could be something as minor such as acute asthma through to
something quite significant such as mesothelioma, cystic fibrosis or lung cancer.
Whether its themselves or they may know someone living with a condition as such, it does effect
essentially 25% of the population so its a pretty big audience out there that if we can try and
create a better life for them through the research that we do thats a significant opportunity that
weve got available to us.
How is your intellectual property taken to market?
I think usually the first step is getting into a patent, because what youre creating is a particular
mechanism or pathway or something of that nature which is unique that you want to patent to
ensure that no one else can take to then create a form of medication or treatment.
So we cant do that ourselves, were not big enough and obviously its a pretty extensive exercise
to go through when youre taking a patent so we have partners through the university or private
firms that can do it for us, we have some MOUs (memorandum of understanding) that clearly
stipulate how we can work with them.
We havent actually got to the point of going through that process but thats how we put some
mechanisms in place so if one of our researchers was at a point where they had something quite
significant that could lead to the creation of a pharmaceutical form of treatment that would be the
pathway wed go down.
What innovation do you foresee for this industry?
The main innovation which is more of an important approach that researchers need to take is
broadening their collaborations.

Thats probably something thats done very well in other parts of the world, but with Perth being
so isolated and not being able to logistically interface with other researchers from institutes and
universities we need to really expand our networks and become more face to face with other
researchers not only in Australia, but through other parts of the world.
By doing that youre going to have access to equipment, potentially that you dont have available
here in Western Australia.
Access into new skills and knowledge about the diseases and also strengthen your capacity for
research outcomes and grants submissions themselves.
We cant all of that at one place but the strength of research in the future will be around those
collaborations and building them on an international scale.
So you can create quality partnerships with the sharing of resources whether it be physical such
as equipment through to skills like peer knowledge to pursue areas of research that perhaps
havent been done before because of the previous silo mentality or isolation that we do have.
What does it take to succeed in this industry?
Weve probably touched on it before in terms of if you are a researcher it is a really committed
and passionate area that you have to pursue, you have some really high highs but also significant
lows as well with the research.
Youre continually exploring, youre continually investigating, and youre continually changing
yourself and trying to understand why and ask the question repetitively.
So to produce the outcomes it requires that persistence that commitment, and that I suppose
internal passion that you have in that particular field that youre after.
Taking that thread and that theme for an organisation such as ourselves we need people who may
be not researchers but are also committed and passionate about the cause as well.
So we may not be researchers ourselves but were supportive of what they do and the outcomes
that theyre trying to achieve.
That really comes back to why we exist and thats creating a better life for those living with
respiratory conditions.
So for us in business services to provide the administration support to those in clinical trials, if
we can create that environment that offers the best opportunities for our researchers and our
patients to have a better life or pursue research excellence, then were helping fulfil that vision.
Where will we find or how will we create the leaders of tomorrow?
Theres great opportunities both internally and externally to do that, I think with research for
those to become leaders they need to one obviously pursue excellence in their own work they do,
but also go out and form partnerships and collaborations with others either across
Australia or internationally as well.
For them to gain success and recognition its really important for them to build their credentials
and they can do that by being a leader, being proactive and then forming those relationships.
Internally we can also look at putting programs in place to develop our staff and foster them into
more senior and leadership type roles.
For example that can be a senior PhD student, supervising cadetships, or students going into
honors programs.

We can look at our experienced staff in our clinical trials team taking on leadership roles,
supporting the clinical trials manager, and thats a really important step to take because if a
business like that does grow with additional size its important for us to have new leaders
available to coordinate and lead those new sites into the future.
Weve created a leadership team which is a real strategic change from where weve been in the
past.
Predominantly before that we just had one leader and one person driving the organisation, now
weve got a whole leadership team which comprises of five people that are responsible for
driving the strategic plan of the organisation.
So part of that requirement has brought in new leaders as well but also provides the opportunity
for staff within the organisation to move into those leadership positions into the future.
Externally theres certainly opportunities for students to look at adding leadership to their
qualifications or into their competencies as well.
Quite often we can graduate with some real technical skills within our field, but understanding
what leadership is and how we take that into our workplace setting is a really important aspect
for those leaders to take on board into the future.
It doesnt mean you have to be in a leadership position to demonstrate leadership, it can be a
quality that as an individual you can show in any type of position in any sort of organisation.
So thats really important to recognize, and within our organisation we try and foster that, and
make sure people can embrace leadership regardless of their title.
Any advice for new University graduates?
Certainly take the opportunity to learn as much about the industry that you want to be
involved in, take any opportunity to get your hands dirty and get involved, there may be
experiences that may not suit what your needs are or what youre aspiring to do but its still a
fruitful exercise to go through as it gives you a broader appreciation of what opportunities there
are, and it helps you define where you might want to focus your energies and attention.
Also need to recognize that careers and the workspace more than ever changing with
technological advancements, so there is a need for all of us to continue to upgrade our skills and
knowledge within our industry, or even broaden those to make sure that were relevant in that
current day and time but also into the future as well.
So there is a responsibility that we dont rest on our laurels and just accept that if we do have a
qualification that will be suffice into the future.
With these changes that are constantly around us our ability to adapt, be flexible and be
aware of whats required will be really important so ongoing education and learning, whatever
form or shape that be will be really important for students to take on board.

What important issues will face University graduates over the next five to ten years?
How factual this is could be debated but what you do here is a lot of what we are learning now
could be questioned about how relevant will that be in 3-5 years time?

So its fantastic that we all go down a path of getting a degree or some high degree
of education, but that doesnt necessarily guarantee that were equipped with those relevant skills
that will be required in 5 years time or 10 years time.
So certainly provides a platform for all of us coming out of a tertiary qualification to enter the
workplace that we need to be conscious that we need to continue to grow with the industry that
were in and constantly learn whats required and whats happening in that space, and develop
ourselves to be relevant into the future.
Can you offer some fast facts about your company/industry?
Weve been in existence for 15 years; were one of only 2 in Australia.
We are in a highly competitive industry which requires us to compete on an international scale
with pharmaceutical company contracts through to local and federal research grants.
Were in an area where 25% of Australias population are affected, and thats respiratory
conditions.
We are dealing with cancer such as lung cancer that kills more females than breast cancer does,
and its probably the third-most expensive disease in Australia on our health system.