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Stewart Washer

STEWART Washer is involved in the biotechnology industry at the exciting time when convergence has occurred between medicine and agriculture. During the past decade, Dr Washer has founded seven biotechnology companies in both the agri-food and medical sectors. During this time he has seen firsthand the rejection of genetically modified (GM) foods by numerous consumer groups, the use of farm animals and plants to produce value added medical products, and the massive success of biotech-nology in the medical field. In March 2005, Dr Washer took biotechnology company Phylogica through a successful and oversubscribed initial public offering to list on the ASX at a 30 per cent premium. Phylogica has a novel drug discovery technology based on parts of proteins derived from diverse micro-organisms that are being developed to treat stroke, diabetes, asthma and other inflammatory diseases. His biggest career setback came when GM foods were rejected by the wider comm-unity soon after he founded Grain Biotech Australia in 1998. GBA has gone on to complete field trials on salt-tolerant GM wheat that can still yield viable crops when irrigated with water approaching seawater in salt concentration. The lesson he has learned is “only ignore customer and end consumer feedback at your own peril”. For that reason he introduced the first GM food test into Australia through Biotest. He believes that a successful technology entrepreneur needs to have the ability to rapidly adapt to the environment and not question if the environment is fair or not.

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