Vendée-based Clean Cells invests 22 million euros in its new site – Le Journal des Entreprises – Loire-Atlantique
Olivier Boisteau is a director who is as happy as he is ambitious. The co-founder of Clean Cells has just inaugurated a 5,300 square meter building near Montaigu. An investment of 22 million euros in what is “the largest site for the quality control of biopharmaceutical drugs and the production of cell banks and viruses in Europe, he specifies. This new building will enable us to quadruple our analysis and production capacities.”
Clean Cells now has 140 employees for a turnover of 22 million euros in 2022. This company is the largest entity of a group, Clean Biologics, which also has two other subsidiaries, Naobios, at Saint-Herblain, and Biodextris, in Laval, Canada. “The whole group generates 33 million euros in turnover and has 240 employees”, specifies Olivier Boisteau, also vice-president of Clean Biologics, founded in 2018.
The Vendée company Clean Cells is a subcontractor for the world of biotechnology companies and pharmaceutical giants, such as Sanofi, Servier, Pfizer and Novartis. Its know-how concerns biomedicines, medicines whose active principle has a biological origin (mainly cell or virus). “Our main job is to control the harmlessness of their biomedicines for our customers, that is to say to ensure quality control at all stages of manufacture. We check whether their product, a vaccine for example, does not has not been contaminated during the production process by a virus, bacteria or biological fragment, which would have nothing to do with the product and could have a harmful effect on the patient, explains Olivier Boisteau. and its sterility.” Because the risk for the patient can result in an economic risk for the manufacturer. “A defective batch of biomedicines is a risk for people, he says. But also for the company which could have a disastrous effect for it. something that shouldn’t be there. We’re looking for a biological needle in a haystack.”
When a biotech or a big pharma prepares the launch of a new drug, it must thus guarantee with a third party company such as Clean Cells that their new product does not present any danger for the patients to whom it will be inoculated. “Most of the time, our work takes place just before the marketing authorization (AMM), at the time of the clinical study, specifies Olivier Boisteau. The big pharmaceutical companies have quality control departments, but to call on à nous allows them to make us bear the responsibility for the quality of their product, so as not to be judge and jury.” Two to three times a year, Clean Cells detects an anomaly. “In 22 years, we’ve had around 50 times find something that shouldn’t be there. When our customers find out, they’re not happy, but it’s also a sigh of relief.”
170 customers worldwide
Of the more than 5,000 square meters of the new building, more than 3,000 will be dedicated to laboratories equipped with brand new equipment. Part of the facilities will be devoted to the production of cell and virus banks that will enable Clean Cells customers to produce innovative drugs. “This is our other job, says Olivier Boisteau. These transformed cells will be used by our customers to produce an antibody or a vaccine.” Cleans Cells’ customers are biotechnology companies (24%), subcontractors producing biomedicines (45%) and pharmaceutical manufacturers (30%). “We have 170 customers around the world, reports Olivier Boisteau. Our turnover is achieved at 33% in France and 77% internationally, including 52% in Europe, 12% in the United States and Canada. Our commercial strategy consists of going to the countries where there is the strongest dynamic for the creation of companies in biotechnologies, such as in Israel or South Korea at the moment.”
“Our market has been growing strongly for ten years, by around 12% this year, relates Olivier Boisteau. It’s even 20% in the gene therapy sector.” It is in this very favorable context that the co-founders of Clean Cells (Olivier Boisteau and Marc Meichenin) and the majority shareholder decided to invest in a new site. The Archimed fund, a fund based in Lyon and specialized in medtech and biotech, which owns 60% of the capital of Clean Biologics, pushed the leaders to see bigger and further. “We had weak signals, notes Olivier Boisteau. Our client portfolio was starting to really expand and our notoriety was experiencing a very clear push. We also realized that our historic site would not be suitable for a rapid increase in our activity. We could not make more than 22 million euros in turnover in our old buildings. We had to change scale to support growth.”
Become an ETI within 2 to 3 years
Another trigger for the decision: the context of the Covid epidemic and the decisions taken by the government to ensure industrial sovereignty in the pharmaceutical sector. The 22 million euros of investment, including 7 for laboratory equipment, is partly financed by an envelope of 6.8 million euros provided by Bpifrance, as part of the France 2030 recovery plan. subsidies, and 1.8 million euros in the form of a loan, specifies Olivier Boisteau.We will be able to multiply our analysis and production capacities by 4, and aim for 80 million euros in turnover. within 5 years.” A new building is obviously an asset for finding new customers and increasing turnover. “We are organizing a scientific seminar in September, with a lot of customers. I am sure that the building will have its small effect.” If needed, the building stands on a 17,000 square meter plot that could accommodate expansion and new activities.
In this desire to be one of the players that counts on the health scene, Clean Cells is a founding member of a new association France Biolead, born in December 2022, supported by French pharmaceutical manufacturers and their subcontractors. . “France has missed quite a few turns in the field of biomedicines. Our place is to be a real accelerator for the marketing of a drug at a time when our country wants to regain its sovereignty in the health sector. France Biolead allows us to be directly in contact with the government and at the heart of the decisions that will be taken.France Biolead’s objective is to bring out, in the field of biotech, a unicorn and 5 ETIs within 5 years. have the ambition to be one of these 5 ETI. We are already 240, but we cannot count the 50 employees of our subsidiary Biodextris, in Canada, smiles the manager. Within 2 to 3 years, we expect 60 recruitments in France.” 190 + 60 = 250. The account will be good to be an ETI.