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CSL (Commonwealth Serum Laboratories) Collection

Antivenene - Tiger Snake

Image: Antivenene - Tiger Snake

Source: Museum Victoria

The Commonwealth Serum Laboratories (CSL) was founded in 1916 to provide life-saving products to a country isolated by war. The organisation is renowned for its work in the areas of penicillin, antivenoms, hormones, vaccines and blood products. In 1994, CSL Ltd was listed on the Australian Stock Exchange and has achieved considerable success in the international market for bioproducts. The museum's CSL collection includes over 500 artefacts from the period 1916 to 1984. The objects were originally collected by CSL staff and volunteers for the CSL Museum, which was once located at the CSL site at Parkville. The displayed objects highlight some of the contributions made by CSL to public health.

The first vaccine produced by CSL in 1919 was used to protect Australians from the pandemic of Spanish influenza.

By the 1930s, CSL was producing a variety of products. CSL's first medical sales representative used this case, containing 65 samples, while travelling the east coast of Australia. Products included insulin and vaccines to diphtheria, gonorrhoea and typhoid.

CSL is renowned for having rapidly implemented methods for the large-scale manufacture of penicillin following the discoveries of Howard Florey in 1939. By 1944, penicillin was available to Australians fighting in the Pacific. Australian citizens were the first in the world to have general access to penicillin.

In 1930, CSL and the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute developed the first antivenom for the treatment of tiger snake bits. CSL continued to develop antivenoms to all venomous Australian snakes, as well as the Red-back Spider and Funnel-web Spider. Other antivenoms produced by CSL save against bites from at least 6 other deadly snake species as well as ticks, box jellyfish and stonefish.

In 1994, CSL Ltd was sold by the Australian Government and listed on the Australian Stock Exchange and has achieved considerable success in the international market for bioproducts and pharmaceuticals.

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