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CSL the prescription for World War I vaccine shortages


The company that would become CSL Ltd. had its origins during World War I, when Australian officials realized the war effectively cut the country off from its traditional supplies of vaccines and other bacteriological products.

In response, the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories was founded in 1916 to meet the health care needs of the Australian population and located in Melbourne. In 1918, the company's headquarters was moved to its current site in Parkville, a suburb of Melbourne.

CSL's first major challenge came in 1919 when the Spanish flu epidemic reached Australia. With the company temporarily tripling the size of its staff, CSL produced 3 million doses of a mixed bacterial vaccine in an effort to fight the epidemic.

CSL continued to operate as a nationally owned business until it was privatized and incorporated as CSL Ltd. in 1991. In 1994, the company went public and was listed on the Australian Stock Exchange.

The company began growing in earnest in 2000 with the acquisition of Zentrallaboratorium Blutspendedienst, the plasma fractionation business of a nonprofit affiliate of the Swiss Red Cross and the world's fifth-largest manufacturer of plasma products. ZLB Plasma Services began operations in September 2001 after CSL acquired 47 U.S.-based plasma collection centers and related laboratory facilities.

In 2004, CSL became a truly global business with the acquisition of Aventis Behring, combining it with ZLB Bioplasma to create ZLB Behring, now known as CSL Behring L.L.C., a global leader in plasma therapeutics.

Today, CSL has major facilities in Australia, the United States, Germany and Switzerland. With more than 10,000 employees working in 27 countries, it is a leading manufacturer in the plasma products and vaccine industries.

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