Updated on 18 March 2013
Dr Deborah Rathjen, CEO & MD, Bionomics, Australia, gets BioSpectrum Asia Pacific Awards 2013 in the Person of the Year 2013 category
Steering Bionomics' focus towards large markets where there is a defined clinical need for new treatments, Dr Rathjen helped it gain global recognition for its multiple drug candidates and targets in the therapeutic areas of cancer, anxiety, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Her agenda is to see Bionomics grow into a company with $1 billion market capitalization. Its current market cap is $150 million approximately.
Bionomics, founded in 1999 by a group of healthcare researchers in Australia, focuses on discovery and development of new treatments for cancer and serious disorders of the central nervous system (CNS). Since she took over the reins in 2000, Dr Rathjen, its CEO and managing director, has led this start-up from being a gene discovery company to an emerging drug discovery company with operations in Australia, France and the US.
A scientist with a keen interest in science, especially neuroscience, Dr Deborah Rathjen has led Bionomics from the front in its growth story. Her role has also been critical in shaping the life sciences industry of Australia in the past few years. As one of the few women to have broken through glass ceiling of the industry in the Asia Pacific region, her contribution is of great significance. As the chair of AusBiotech since 2008, she has been the voice of the country's life sciences industry and advocated the needs of the industry to influence government policies on innovation, clinical trials and other such matters of significance.
One of the big wins for the sector and for companies in this sector recently has been the introduction of an R&D Tax Incentive by the Australian government. The incentive of a cash refund to companies with a turnover of less than $20 million for eligible R&D activities has significantly benefited small life science companies.
Sculpting a success story
At Bionomics, Dr Rathjen used her entrepreneurial skills to draft and implement an acquisition strategy to provide the company an entry into the drug discovery industry. Bionomics acquired Neurofit, a preclinical CRO specializing in CNS behavioral models, in 2005. The same year, it also acquired Melbourne-based Iliad Chemicals that brought to Bionomics its MultiCore chemistry platform.