UTS Library

Panbio: A Diagnostic for Financial Success - West Nile Virus


Panbio Limited

PR Company: 

Phillips Group

Award Category: 

Award Type: 

Call Number: 

2004 E 3



Executive Summary: 

The West Nile Virus emerged recently in Europe and <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />North Africa presenting a significant threat to public, equine and animal health.  The mosquito-borne virus infected around 4200 people and caused almost 300 deaths in the US in 2002. Incidence of the potentially deadly virus was expected to climb.

In July 2003 listed medical diagnostics specialists PANBIO Limited became the world's first company to receive US Food and Drug Administration clearance for a diagnostic test for the deadly virus.

Key challenges were how to make a major impact in the large US market, secure major laboratory customers ahead of quickly closing competitors and achieve a re-rating of the PANBIO stock in light of its expected success in the biggest market in the world.

A 'push-pull' strategy was used to generate interest in PANBIO and its product throughout the US, at a consumer and biomedical industry level. This fed into the Australian campaign to reinforce the significance in, and endorsement of, the product and company's potential success. Both campaigns drove interest in the company, its share price and generated US investment.

Goals and objectives were achieved. PANBIOs share price lifted 61% to an annual high of $1.10 and US investors joined the companys share register on the strength of a highly successful media campaign across 45 US states. 

Situation Analysis: 

In mid-2003 as the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />US summer season approached, intense competition was building in the international diagnostics industry. Rival companies were racing to commercialise a diagnostic test for West Nile Virus (WNV), which had emerged as a serious public health threat in the US and Canada in 1999. Australian biotechnology company PANBIO was leading the charge, with its WNV IgM ELISA Diagnostic Kit submitted and awaiting US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) clearance. The race to market was torridly contested, with US-based competitor Focus also awaiting regulatory clearance for its WNV diagnostic kit, expected any day.

Although unknown in Australia, WNV resulted in over 280 deaths in the US in 2002, and the incidence of the potentially deadly virus was expected to climb. The US was a major market for PANBIO's WNV kit with strong investor potential. PANBIO recognised that FDA clearance could significantly lift its corporate profile and result in increased investor interest. The company's share price was trading 32% below the issue price when the company listed in 2001. PANBIO was the first company in the world to receive FDA clearance (Appendix A1).


Primary and secondary research included:


  • A workshop with senior management determined the approach, timing, issues, logistics and deliverables
  • Strategy discussions with Phillips Group's Chicago-based partner PCI on local market conditions, approach and timing 
  • Monitoring competitors progress through the FDA process and media


  • Analysis of the WNV disease profile (its origins, incidence, emergence in the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />US and Canada, and research into the US states most affected by the virus) to tailor a distribution strategy for media materials
  • Review current and past US media coverage on WNV to determine media approach, interest and issues

Target Policies: 

Target publics were identified and categorised across the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />US and Australia.

Trade and Industry

Australian biomedical trade and industry were targeted to raise PANBIO's profile domestically and increase shareholder value. US biomedical trade and industry were targeted to advocate use of the diagnostic kit among US health care workers and patients and generate investment interest. This public was crucial to provide credible, third-party endorsement of the diagnostic kit to feed into the investor relations activities. 

Financial and Investment Community

The financial and investment community in Australia and the US was a major focus of the campaign to ensure a fully valued share price domestically and to build investment interest internationally. 

Health Care Workers and potential patients from the community

For PANBIO to secure laboratory customers ahead of competitors, US health care workers and patients potentially affected by the virus were targeted. Following extensive coverage in mainstream media, it was believed that patients and health care providers would generate interest and demand on a national level in an immediate timeframe, for the new diagnostic kit.

Communication Strategy: 

Communication Strategy and Implementation <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

A two-pronged 'push-pull' approach to key stakeholders in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />North America was implemented by generating widespread general interest coverage in news, health and lifestyle sectors supported by biomedical trade media. The approach was to 'push' information to all key publics through a broad information campaign. Creating demand through health care workers and patients was a core component of the 'pull' strategy. This was achieved by creating awareness through the media and securing third-party endorsement for the diagnostic kit from biomedical experts and health care providers.

PANBIO was relatively unknown in the US market. Generating immediate credibility and knowledge of the company was essential. This was achieved by a broad, wide spread and saturated media coverage across the country with strong focus in the heavily affected US states.     

Media was the most effective and immediate channel to reach key stakeholders.


Implementation occurred in three phases:

Phase 1 Build awareness (July 2003)

With the means to reflect and drive public awareness, the media was a key channel to distribute information about the diagnostic kit and target key publics. Media was broken down by country and category to target geographic areas most impacted by WNV and by stakeholders to create investment interest (Appendix A2).

US publics were an immediate priority given the US was the primary target market for PANBIOs WNV diagnostic kit. US media interest would be used to generate Australian media interest to highlight the importance of this product to PANBIO's future.

Phase 1 of the program comprised a three-pronged targeted approach to raise PANBIOs corporate profile, maximise media coverage and financial market penetration. Investor relations

Investor relations activities targeted mainstream and business print and broadcast news and business magazines. Tailored ASX announcements, roadshows and associated tactics were designed to generate interest in and support for PANBIO among individual investors, fund managers, analysts and brokers in Australia and the US.

The key messages that underpinned all financial communication materials highlighted:

  •  the test's strong commercial performance
  • its potential to build demand for PANBIO's other products
  • the size and scope of the potential market and management's strategies; and
  • the ability to translate commercial demand to financial performance. 

In the US, the story was distributed on the US Business Wire and targeted pitches were conducted to national business media, including CNN News and MSNBC, which have dedicated business segments.

As WNV was not a topical issue in Australia, the national strategy focused on supporting the investor and financial markets and profiling PANBIO.

General profile and positioning

To raise awareness of both PANBIO and the diagnostic kit, communication materials were developed for mainstream general, business and health print and broadcast news. The intent was to:

  • build interest and excitement
  • establish PANBIO as the "first to market" and industry leader
  • convey the consumer and public health benefit of PANBIOs WNV test; and
  • position the development as a breakthrough in control and management of the disease.

The announcement of a FDA-cleared test was a strong national media story, with broad general interest. The materials highlighted PANBIO's impressive track record including its commitment to improve world health, responsible product stewardship and its reputation for safety and quality.

In Australia, endorsement from the office of Queensland Premier Peter Beattie was coordinated to leverage the Premiers high-profile support for the state's science and biotechnology industry (Appendix A3).

Customers, product and marketing

Communication activities aimed at raising PANBIO's profile and credibility with those who would buy, or influence decisions to buy, the WNV diagnostic kit, were focussed towards trade media, industry conferences and trade shows in the US and Australia.

Activities were designed to reinforce and support PANBIO's advertising campaign, and act as a "door opener" for the company's other products, by highlighting the quality, safety and reliability of the tests, performance to date, cost-effectiveness and ease of use. 


Activities included:

  • Distribution of media release, fact sheets and background information to priority US State metropolitan daily newspapers (Appendices A4 and A5)
  • Personal calls to leading business and/or health writers at 16 major US dailies, leading radio and TV networks, offering interviews with PANBIO's US general manager
  • Distribution of announcement to Australian business media (Appendix A6)
  • Distribution of announcement to medical, science and health publications in Australia and US, also laboratory journals and trade media

Phase 2 Endorsement (August to October 2003)

Maintaining interest and momentum in the US and Australian financial and investment markets was achieved through industry conferences, PANBIO's roadshow presentations and ongoing coverage in newspapers and industry publications.

In October, PANBIO presented and distributed information at the San Diego annual meeting of the Infectious Disease Society of America where WNV was a major focus.


Activities included:

  • Extensive media follow up with Australian business and health media to prolong the life of the story and maximise media coverage
  • Targeted presentations to US and Australian institutional investors, brokers and analysts
  • Targeted presentations to biotechnology industry conferences/meetings
  • Confidential government briefings to Queensland Premiers Department and the Minister for Innovation

Phase 3 Reinforcement (November 2003 and beyond)

In Australia and the US, it was important to reaffirm investor support for PANBIO by ensuring the market was fully informed of PANBIO's achievements in the US in relation to WNV and other products. This was achieved through regular market updates and feature stories in targeted health, business print and broadcast media.

Long term, it was important to reinforce PANBIO's position as market leader in the provision of WNV diagnostic kit. Periodic updates to health and general news media on the spread and incidence of the disease, statistical information on those tested and the public health outcomes produced the required outcome. Risk management following identification of a possible false-positives issue was also implemented in Phase 3.


Activities included:

  • Issues and risk analysis and management 
  • Market and media updates




Goals achieved

The two-fold goal was successfully achieved. Panbio's entry into the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />US biomedical market was underpinned by an extensive media launch across 45 States reaching more than 200 million people through all mediums including print, broadcast, television and the web. This resulted in immediate investor interest in the US and subsequently the Australian market which near doubled the company's share price over the ensuing three months.

Result OBJ1 Achieved. West Nile Virus featured in three key medical trade and biotechnology publications including Gray Sheet, Health Central and Food and Drug Law Institute newsletter<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

Result OBJ2 Exceeded. See below. (Appendices A7 and A8 for more results

Result OBJ5 Achieved. See below.




News wires

»         Associated Press

»         Reuters

»         Agence France Presse


»         Feature stories on CNBC (Appendix A11), CNN and Fox News channels

»         Story aired on 101 national and regional television stations 142 times


»         Interview broadcast on National Public Radio


»         Coverage in 39 major news print publications including Wall Street Journal, US Today, Washington Post, Time, San Francisco Chronicle, Newsday NY, New York Times, Miami Herald and Toronto Star


»         Major US sites including Forbes, HealthCentral, Yahoo and CNN.com

»         11 regional and one Canadian television station website

»         Reports on all 39 print publication websites


»         Several key medical trade and biotechnology publications including Gray Sheet and Food and Drug Law Institute newsletter


Result OBJ3 Exceeded. See below. (Appendices A8 and A9 for more results)




News wires

»         Major news wires including AAP, Australian Business News and Asia Pulse


»         Lead interview on Business Breakfast

»         Channel 9 News Brisbane

»         ABC News


»         Major metropolitan radio stations including Sydney 2UE and 612 ABC Brisbane


»         National newspaper The Australian

»         Major metropolitan daily newspapers including The Courier Mail, The Age and Adelaide Advertiser


»         Australian Biotechnology News


»         State government media site

Result OBJ4 Exceeded in the month following the campaign, PANBIOs share price increased from 68 cents to reach an annual high of $1.10 (Appendix A10).



Measures used to evaluate the success of the communication campaign included:

  • Amount and content analysis of media coverage
  • Analysis of PANBIOs share price before and after the campaign
  • Analysis of the number of US investors on PANBIOs share register before and after the campaign
  • Feedback from PANBIO