Professor Andrew Cuthbertson AO, Chief Scientific Officer and Director, R&D at CSL Ltd. and IMNIS mentor in the 2017 MedTech-Pharma program (VIC).

“It is important that both sides feel the interaction is valuable and that there is a rapport.”

After completing medical training at the University of Melbourne and PhD in Immunology at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Australia, Professor Cuthbertson spent five years doing molecular biology research as a staff member at the Howard Florey Institute in Melbourne and the National Institutes of Health in the United States. He then spent seven years at Genentech Inc in San Francisco, working on anti–VEGF therapy for age related macular degeneration.

Professor Cuthbertson was recruited to CSL Limited in 1997 and is the R&D Director and Chief Scientific Officer of CSL Limited. In 2016 he was made an Enterprise Professor, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, University of Melbourne and an Officer of the Order of Australia for his services to medical research.

Professor Cuthbertson has a keen interest in biopharmaceutical drug development. He currently manages an internal R&D budget of over US$700m, and a global R&D organisation of over 1500 personnel. He is responsible for crafting the global R&D strategy for CSL.

Why are you participating in the IMNIS program?

Career guidance of young people is important and there are not a lot of biotech industry mentors in Australia.

What is the most crucial aspect of this professional relationship for you?

It is important to discuss high-quality options rather than trying to dictate a particular career path. It is important that both sides feel the interaction is valuable and that there is a rapport. Either side should be able to stop and redirect the relationship without hard feelings if it is unproductive.  

When you meet with your mentee, do you work together on a set of goals or do you go where the conversation takes you? 

First conversation should be free-flowing and then the mentee should draft a meaningful, achievable set of goals.

What are the key skills PhD students need to successfully collaborate with and/or work in industry?

Respect for data. Technical expertise in a particular, relevant field, with intellectual openness to adjacencies. Broad understanding of industry needs and the goals of the project.  Engaged, collaborative nature. 

What has been the most rewarding aspect of the IMNIS program for you so far?

Being able to give guidance as to how best to invest the mentee’s time.  Advising when a particular path may be a poor use of valuable time, relative to the long-term career goal.  Discussing the impact of technology on career evolution.  Trying to anticipate career opportunities and avoid dead-ends.