Updated on 25 April 2012
Dr John Ballard has played multiple roles in the Australian life sciences industry. "I was a dedicated researcher in the public sector (CSIRO), including leader of a substantial research group. Meanwhile, I was also playing the role of an inventor of key technologies and the co-founder of a successful biotechnology company," he says. He started his career as a researcher at the Cooperative Researcher Center for Tissue Growth and Repair in Adelaide, Australia. He took the position of CEO of one of the first cooperative research centres (CRC for tissue growth and repair) in 1991, and with all these experiences, co-founded an angel investment group.
With his dynamic experience, he became a leader as board member of a number of early-stage life sciences companies. In addition to these activities, he was a founding director of AusBiotech, a national body of companies and individuals dedicated to the development and prosperity of the Australian biotechnology industry, and served on the board of that association for several years.
Along with BioAngels, he is also a director of BR Angels, Applimex, Neubody and not-for-profit companies such as Australian Proteome Analysis Facility and Australian Institute for Commercialization and also the chairman of AdAlta, a biotechnology company.
AdAlta, a next generation antibody company, is developing its novel shark antibody technology following an investment led by venture capital firm Yuuwa Capital and includes members of Brisbane Angels, the BioAngels in Adelaide and existing AdAlta shareholders. There are currently 23 approved antibody-based products with sales forecast exceeding $50 billion per annum over the next few years. In January 2012, AdAlta signed an agreement with Roche to evaluate and identify shark antibody binders and the company got the US patent for its i-body technology.
Dr Ballard is recognized for his multiple achievements and contributions he made to the industry in his illustrious career. In his long and credible path of promoting Australia's life sciences industry, he was honored with AusBiotech Chairman's Excellence Award, in recognition of his work as a long-standing pioneer in the biotechnology industry. He has served as the president of Australian Society of Biochemistry and the vice-president of AusBiotech. He was elected to the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering in 1997 and was awarded CSIRO's Business Excellence Medal (in 2001), the Centenary Medal (in 2003) and the ATSE Clunies Ross Medal (in 2004).
In his own words "establishment of GroPep and taking it to a successful ASX listing was my big achievement, and in the last decade, the formation of BioAngels and its important role in supporting the growth of young life science companies was also a big achievement".
He is the author of about 300 scientific publications and has received several research awards and is an inventor of 10 patents. In his entire career, one of his most remarkable contributions has been recognizing the potential companies that have sound capital balance and experienced management, new inventions - product or service that meets the market demand, has recognizable competitive advantages, revenues, and invested in them to make them market leaders of tomorrow.
Dr Ballard, now in his sixties and an industry veteran who saw the growth of the life sciences industry, says that challenges before the industry in Australia are generally similar to the rest of the world and include development of a sustainable company model that can take an early-stage enterprise to commercial success without repeated calls for investment funding. "There is a challenge in finding experienced personnel for employment in life sciences companies and especially availability of seed and follow-on funding for company development," concludes Dr Ballard.