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Technology in Australia 1788-1988Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
Table of Contents

Chapter 9

I Introduction

II The Australian Chemical Industry

III Pharmaceuticals
i Prosperous pioneers
ii War-time pharmaceutical chemistry
iii Commonwealth Serum Laboratories
iv Post-war pharmaceutical manufacture
v Public sector policies

IV Chemists In Other Industries

V The Dawn Of Modern Chemical Industry - High Pressure Synthesis

VI The Growth Of Synthetic Chemicals - Concentration, Rationalisation And International Links

VII Australian Industrial Chemical Research Laboratories

VIII The Plastics Industry

IX The Paint Industry

X Acknowledgements



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Pharmaceuticals (continued)

In many ways Australia would have been well placed to get its share of this industry: The country had a high standard of medical science; impressive skills in organic synthesis in the universities, the CSIRO and industry; transport costs were virtually irrelevant, hence the disadvantage of distance was reduced; the country's early prosperity could have provided a supportive price structure and hence an adequate domestic market; and importantly, Australian entrepreneurs had entered the field very early, almost abreast with the international majors. The missing link -with a few exceptions -was a concentrated and market-oriented effort in research and particularly development.

A few entrepreneurs and researchers in the private sector held these views, although perhaps not with today's clarity of hindsight. The characteristics of the industry did, however, deeply influence its international distribution amongst technology-donor and recipient countries.

In the 1970s and 1980s the terms of trade of agricultural and mineral products deteriorated and resource-based countries such as Australia and Canada declined sharply in their per capita incomes. Belatedly, public comprehension of the increasing importance of skill-based industries and of national weaknesses in these fields spread. The pharmaceutical industry, essentially research-based, is a typical, perhaps extreme, example of such an industry. As it rose from the scientific discovery of a few synthetic chemicals to become a mature industry with some 2 000 established synthetic drugs, the opportunities for, and cost of, entry into the industry changed drastically. Australian scientists, business and Government each reacted differently and not exactly in accord to these changes. In the 1980s, when chemotherapy was well past its midpoint of growth, if not at a stage of maturity world-wide, a second wave of pharmaceutical evolution appeared likely, although by no means as certain as some contemporary predictions asserted. Understanding of the DNA had opened up a new field of molecular manipulation, genetic engineering. Australia's industrial role in this field at the date of writing is as yet uncertain; a brief excursion through the period of chemotherapy may well hold some lessons for this next wave.

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© 1988 Print Edition page 652, Online Edition 2000
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