Dynamic Business Logo
Home Button
Bookmark Button

A company founded on the work of Dr Fiona Wood, last year’s Australian of the Year, is successfully exporting around the globe and making things easier for burns victims worldwide. Cameron Bayley reports.

Active ImageMost survivors of the 2002 Bali bombings were sent to the Royal Perth Hospital for treatment, where they were fortunate to benefit from the work of Dr Fiona Wood and colleagues. Now the techniques Wood helped develop—and which came into such high demand at that time—are changing the lives of burns victims around the world, due to the export success of the company set up to commercialise the technology, Clinical Cell Culture (C3).

Along with scientist Marie Stoner, Wood established the McComb Foundation in 1999 to support their research and development in skin tissue engineering. “The concept of commercialising intellectual property to fund our ongoing research with the McComb Foundation was the major drive behind establishing C3,” Wood explains.

C3 officially launched in June 2001, with its two major products, ReCell and CellSpray, both using new techniques for harvesting skin cells to treat burns victims, dramatically reducing the time patients need to spend in hospital.

ReCell is used for small burns, whereas CellSpray is used where a person has received burns to more than 30 percent of their body. “With the spray-on skin technology, we’re the only company in the world with a commercial licence,” says Troels Jordansen, managing director of C3. “ReCell is by far the biggest product opportunity in our company, and nobody else is doing that right now.” Given ReCell’s much wider applications, it is by far the company’s most successful product and makes up more than 80 percent of C3’s exports.

Active ImageWhile products such as these are developed with the hope of providing assistance to victims worldwide, exporting them becomes important from a financial point of view as well, says Wood. “We recognised that in order to establish a business that would realistically fund an element of research then it had to be a global business. That was something we learnt very early,” she explains.

Jordansen agrees: “The products have global appeal. In order to survive in today’s market, the home market would simply not be enough.”

Export Markets

Getting approval to launch the products into the European market was the company’s first big step in exporting. Getting a foothold in that market, Jordansen explains, gave the company enough kudos to enter more markets, such as Malaysia, Singapore, and Hong Kong. As Dynamic Export goes to print, C3 is waiting for approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before it can enter the US market—the largest healthcare market in the world. Approval could be given at any time, and being at the mercy of the FDA’s own agenda is frustrating—“I have very little hair left on my head,” Jordansen jokes—but securing that market will be icing on the cake. “Once we have that, our roll out will be worldwide.”

Although things have gone well for Jordansen and the team, it’s taken a lot to get where they are today. The number-one priority for any medical product is to ensure it’s safe and there are no harmful side effects. For C3, this has meant a cost of almost $1 million, and five years of clinical trials involving around 80 patients. “You have to consider that with a product like ReCell, it takes 1,500 to 1,800 A4 pages of text to prove that it is safe and effective,” Jordansen explains. And to enter each country requires approval from their own regulatory body. “It’s an incredibly difficult process to go through, and many companies fail.”

Investing in your intellectual property is incredibly important, he says, as is being confident in your ability to sell your product overseas. With Australia having a good reputation in the medical industry, all too often European or American companies will swoop in and buy the technology and then market it as their own. “I think another important thing for Australian companies is to look internationally, and believe that Australians can ‘internationalise’ products themselves, they don’t necessarily need to be taken over.”

Active Image
Jordansen recommends exporters establish their market presence on the ground, to assist with the export process. A big plus for C3 was to relocate their head office from Perth to Cambridge in the UK to be closer to the European market, and an office in Florida handles business in South America and Canada, and will assist with the US product launch if FDA approval is granted.

Once you’ve got approval, you need to find a distributor. “Identifying good reliable distributors is one of the most important aspects of establishing export,” Jordansen says. “One way of getting the best is often to go to the potential future customer and get them to identify who they respect as salespeople.”

And he can’t stress enough the importance of relationships with distributors. “The investment you make in your distributor will come back many times. So the more you do to help them, the better your future business will be. Listen to the distributor and give him what he needs to become successful. Never forget that he knows the market best.”

Watching how your product is received in a new market can also help you develop it further, says Wood. Part of the reward she gets from the success of C3 is not only seeing the technology implemented in other countries, but learning through others’ experiences with it. “People look at it with different eyes and say ‘Have you thought about doing XYZ?’ and that can augment what we do,” she says humbly. “I think learning’s always bilateral.”

Today, Wood maintains an advisory role within the company, travelling the world to teach others how to implement the technology, as well as combining her work for C3 with research and development with the McComb Foundation. “It’s been an extraordinary learning curve, an extraordinary experience,” she says. “And nothing’s very easy, but if it’s worth doing, it’s worth working for. We work hard to make sure this is a success and we’ll continue to do so.”

C3’s ReCell is in big demand worldwide, and is the company’s strongest export.

What do you think?

    Be the first to comment

Add a new comment

Guest Author

Guest Author

Dynamic Business has a range of highly skilled and expert guest contributors, from a wide range of businesses and industries.

View all posts