Etap-Lab deploys its strategy to change dimension – Le Journal des Entreprises

At the global level, the market is growing at full speed: valued at $44 billion in 2021 by the research firm Mordor Intelligence, the activity of all the preclinical research organizations under contract should reach more than $66 billion. in 2027. The pharmaceutical giants are increasingly using the know-how of these companies: an evolution that has not escaped Nicolas Violle, the CEO of Etap-Lab.

From his headquarters in Vandoeuvre-lès-Nancy, at the Nancy Brabois Technopôle, the manager wants to cling to the global dynamic and is aiming for 9 million euros in turnover within 4 years, with a workforce which must increase from 30 to 90 employees. In 2022, Etap-Lab achieved 2.4 million euros in turnover, 90% of which from exports, and the 30% organic growth expected should make it possible to target “4.5 million in turnover”. business at the end of 2023″, assures Nicolas Violle.

A sector to consolidate

But the development strategy is also based on external growth operations: the CEO of Etap-Lab is currently finalizing the acquisition of a contract research company, a CRO (Contract Research Organization) based in Marseille. “With this acquisition, we are going to make horizontal differentiation”, explains Nicolas Violle, who prefers to remain discreet about the name of the acquired company. “We work a lot in the areas of neurology and cardiology, they are more cardiology and lung oriented.”

This target will not be the last: “As much abroad, the consolidation of the sector has already taken place, in France, there are many small CROs, from academic research, with extraordinary know-how, but who have not taken the next step”, underlines the CEO of Etap-Lab, who is also counting on its acquisition in the South to work with pharmaceutical companies based in Italy and Spain, when Etap-Lab mainly works “on the Rhine axis, from the Netherlands to Switzerland”.

After this acquisition, Nicolas Violle will tackle a new subject: dermatology: “From a strategic point of view, it seems more relevant to me to seek out a company that already has skills in cell culture, than to redevelop them at home”.

A “large part” on own funds

Very constrained by the space necessary to carry out research, the Lorraine manager can afford to launch this growth strategy because he will have, from 2024, a new building of 1,800 m2, in Chavigny, in the Brabois Forestière area, in the immediate vicinity of the Technopôle de Nancy-Brabois. “It’s an investment of 5 million euros, a large part of which is taken from equity,” explains Nicolas Violle. An amount which is explained by the rigor of the standards: “The ventilation system of the building, on its own, costs 500,000 euros.”

On April 12, the manager of Etap-Lab laid the first stone of a future 700 m laboratory2 based in Caen, Normandy, intended to house its research services specializing in the evaluation of stroke treatments. An investment of 2 million euros, which should further strengthen Etap-Lab in its change of dimension.

The leaders of Etap-Lab and Netri, Nicolas Violle and Thibault Honegger (in the center), presented organs on a chip to local elected officials, Christophe Choserot, Emmanuel Lacresse and François Werner.
The leaders of Etap-Lab and Netri, Nicolas Violle and Thibault Honegger (in the center), presented organs on a chip to local elected officials, Christophe Choserot, Emmanuel Lacresse and François Werner. – Photo: Jean-Francois Michel

In parallel with the external growth strategy and investments in real estate, the manager of Etap-Lab is also committed to “preparing for the future” by taking a position in the “international competition aimed at always having the latest methodology “. In this area, Nicolas Violle has been working for a year and a half with Thibault Honegger, the founder and director of Netri. The start-up, based in Lyon, employs 49 people and should reach one million euros in turnover this year by marketing organs on a chip, these in vitro cell cultures produced in 3D devices.

Together, Netri and Etap-Lab have just won the call for projects “Innovations in biotherapies and bioproduction” of the France 2030 plan, for their project called Bio-Diamond. Endowed with 5 million euros over three years, 55% of which will be provided by the two companies, this project aims to find treatments for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease or even amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (disease of Charcot.

A model to be industrialized

“Currently, there is no treatment,” recalls Thibault Honegger. Concretely, Netri will provide an organ on chip reproducing a healthy brain, when Etap-Lab wants to be able to induce a disease and then test drug candidates. “There are still a few barriers to overcome, but we are almost there”, assures Nicolas Violle, who estimates that the level of maturity (TRL) of this innovative technology is “6 or even 7”, when a level of 10 testifies to a marketing.

For the CEO of Etap-Lab, one of the big challenges consists in particular in “industrializing this model, to make it fast, repeatable and optimized for industrial applications”, which is exactly the requirements of future customers, the pharmaceutical giants. “The objective is to put an Alzheimer’s model on the market in a year”, sums up the leader of Netri. Together, the two companies are giving themselves two years to do the same with Parkinson’s disease and three years for Charcot’s disease.

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