Alan Shortall is the Founder, CEO and Executive Director of U.S. based corporation Unilife. The company is a developer and maker of advanced drug delivery systems and was founded by Alan Shortall in 2002. The following is an excerpt from a recent interview with the Interviewing Experts blog staff.
Interviewing-Experts: The Founder, CEO and Executive Director of Unilife, Alan Shortall continues to be the driving influential force pushing the rapid expansion globally of Unilife. Established in 2002, Unilife is a developer and maker of advanced drug delivery systems based in the United States. Welcome, Alan Shortall.
Alan Shortall: Thank you.
Alan Shortall: To start, we had to transition Unilife from being an Australian based company to a U.S. based company, and list on the NASDAQ. We made this move because, for one, the U.S. is the world’s largest and most mature market for safety syringes. Also, the U.S. has levels of industry expertise in medical device manufacturing and quality standards that few else can match. For Unilife to be a global industry leader, and to consolidate our relationships with multiple pharmaceutical companies across the U.S., Europe and Asia, we had to step up to a new level and become a U.S. based business.
Interviewing-Experts: Can you explain how Unilife was able to take full advantage of this new opportunity, Alan Shortall?
Alan Shortall: We built the industrial capabilities required to meet projected demand for our portfolio of products. This included the development of a new state-of-the-art facility, and the development of fully automated assembly systems to manufacture our products. We also had to enhance our quality control and business systems to meet stringent pharmaceutical standards for drug delivery devices. Until we had completed all these steps, we could not begin to finalize preparations to commence commercial production and supply.
We also needed to further enhance the strength of our world-class team to ensure we had the internal expertise and depth to deliver on our milestones. We knew pharmaceutical companies would only begin to sit up and take serious notice of Unilife once we had demonstrated we had the level of internal expertise necessary to safely carry their baby…the injectable drug itself.
To complement our internal expertise, we had to expand and strengthen our relationships with other pharmaceutical industry leaders. This included not just the pharmaceutical companies themselves, but also the established and qualified suppliers of materials and services that they work with every day.
Interviewing-Experts: I think many people would be very surprised to know just how much Unilife achieved behind the scenes in 2010 and 2011.
Alan Shortall: Yes. The successful redomiciliation of Unilife Corporation to the U.S., and the subsequent listing of its common stock on the NASDAQ Global Market was a catalyst for Unilife’s rapid business expansion. The redomiciliation and NASDAQ listing was an enormous task. It absorbed many, many hours of management time. Trust me when I say it’s something you would only ever want to do once.
Interviewing-Experts: What was required to accomplish the redomiciliation?
Alan Shortall: In Australia, we had to develop an Information Memorandum (IM). The development and sign-off of this 400-page document was an extremely onerous process. A Due Diligence committee comprising a number of senior executives, our auditors and legal representatives in the U.S. and Australia were responsible for ensuring that all statements and claims within the document were entirely accurate. This included a review of all contracts, business agreements and employment agreements entered into by the Company. Furthermore, everyone had to sign off on all of statements contained within the IM. Prior to its printing, it then had to be reviewed and signed off by ASIC, the ASX and the Australian Federal Court. It was then posted to more than 7,000 shareholders around the world, prior to their voting on the proposed scheme of arrangement to redomicile the Company to the U.S.
In parallel with this process for the IM, the Company was required to generate a Form 10 with the SEC in the U.S., prior to it being declared effective for listing on the NASDAQ. This Form 10 document was also extremely extensive requiring full legal verification of all matters pertaining to the business of the company, including business info, employment agreements, contracts and agreements and financial data. Whilst similar in content to the IM, the Form 10 required an entirely different structure to meet the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s disclosure requirements.
Only after the completion of all of these activities across Australia and the U.S. were we able to redomicile the Company and then list on NASDAQ.
Interviewing-Experts: What benefits has the Company realized from its redomiciliation?
Alan Shortall: Among several benefits, the cost and effort it took has been validated by our inclusion in more than 20 U.S. indices including the Russell 2000 Microcap and Global Indices. We continue to build up the number of institutions and large U.S. based investment groups that are on our register.
Interviewing-Experts: Alan Shortall, can you tell us about the quality of leadership that Unilife has been able to attract?
Alan Shortall: We have built a world-class management team with very strong backgrounds in the pharmaceutical and medical device industries. On average, each member of our management team has 25 years of experience in industry sectors that strongly complement our areas of business activity.
Interviewing-Experts: And the Unilife Board members?
Alan Shortall: We have been able to do an excellent job in expanding our Board. In this day and age, the job of being a Non-Executive Director in a publicly listed company in the U.S. can be highly onerous. It carries a lot of responsibility. And therefore it’s difficult to find respected business leaders who are willing to join the board of a public company.
We now have seven board members in total with the clear majority being non-executive and independent. These board appointments reflect our commitment to a high level of corporate governance. Shareholders can be sure that we have the stewardship necessary to help guide the Company in upcoming discussions with pharmaceutical companies.
Interviewing-Experts: Last year Unilife completed the construction of a new global headquarters and manufacturing facility in York, Pennsylvania…
Alan Shortall: Yes, it is hard to believe that the site only a year to complete. Especially when you consider that we broke ground shortly before one of the harshest winters in Pennsylvania history!
Standing at the site now is a 165,000 square feet state-of-the art facility. To put this into perspective, the building is as large as three football fields… This building has been designed by some of the best pharmaceutical architects in the U.S. It will be fully complaint with the most stringent pharmaceutical standards for primary drug containers. Indeed, across many areas, we believe this facility will help us set a new industry benchmark for the production of prefilled syringes.
This $31 million project was completed on-schedule. And, taking into account the cost of additional resources we have elected to install in the facility since construction began that will make our business even stronger, we have remained largely on budget.
Interviewing-Experts: How did Unilife finance the project?
Alan Shortall: To ensure facility construction timelines continued to align with the accelerated industrialization program for the Unifill prefilled syringe, we invested approximately $10 million of our own cash reserves into the project. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) agreed to guarantee $10 million of an $18 million mortgage Unilife obtained from Metro Bank of Harrisburg to support construction of the facility. This guarantee by the USDA provided us with lower mortgage rates, saving us valuable capital resources at this stage of our development.
We also qualified for $5.4 million in grants and loans from Pennsylvania, the majority of which relate to the development of the facility. This financial support from the government has strongly improved our balance sheet, and offers us access to capital under very favorable terms.
As a result of our efforts, we were able to move into a facility that will have the capacity to manufacture up to 400 million of the most advanced syringes in the world. And that is just phase one of our construction plans. A second stage of the facility is already pre-approved. This would add another 100,000 square foot of production space, and take our total production capacity to around one billion units per year subject to commercial demand.
Interviewing-Experts: Alan Shortall, thank you for taking the time to talk with us today.
Alan Shortall: You are welcome.
Although Unilife recently moved their offices to the United States from Australia, the firm is still publicly traded in its country of origin. Unilife may be found on both the NASDAQ as well as the Australian Stock exchange. Founder and CEO of Unilife Alan Shortall says that the transition from Australia to the United States happened between 2008 and 2010; the firm has offices in both countries.
Unilife Australia Street Address
Suite 3, Level 11, 1 Chifley Square,
Sydney 2000 NSW Australia
Unilife Australia Postal Address
GPO Box 3400
Sydney 2001 NSW Australia
Tel: +612 8346 6500
Fax: +612 8346 6511