Lets's talk transformation
Stéphane Courgeon, Journalist: "Hello and welcome to Paris, or to be more precise, to the business incubator at Cochin Hospital, which houses innovative start-ups in the health sector. Indeed today I am taking you to meet a very determined company.
For almost ten years now, Endodiag has been focusing its research work on finding new solutions for diagnosing endometriosis.
Endometriosis is a little-known disease which affects one in ten women in France and throughout the world. It is a disorder which can only be definitively diagnosed by performing surgery. Ultimately, in the very near future in fact, Endodiag wants to transform this invasive diagnostic method into something simpler, faster and therefore earlier in order to limit the progression of the disease.
So, how has the company established and then developed itself in order to propose these new solutions? To find out, in a moment I shall be joining Cécile Réal, CEO and co-founder of Endodiag.
"Hello Cécile Réal!"
Cécile Réal, CEO: Hello!
SC: "Perhaps we can begin by talking about this disease, endometriosis, which affects how many women in the world?"
2.5 million sufferers in France
CR: "Today 180 million women in the world suffer from endometriosis. It is a complex disorder which displays relatively common symptoms and is therefore sometimes difficult to identify: in particular abdominal pain during menstrual periods, but other symptoms too. And unfortunately for half of these women, infertility is associated with this disorder."
A complex disease
SC: "Are there any symptoms which are specific to endometriosis?"
CR: "Unfortunately not, and this is what makes the situation complicated. They could be symptoms of other health problems, and because of this, one does not necessarily think of this disorder straight away, and also because the symptoms are quite complicated to identify and diagnose."
SC: "How is it currently diagnosed?"
CR: "At the moment the reference diagnostic procedure recommended by learned societies and public health bodies is surgery, which is an invasive and potentially risky procedure, for it means operating on the patient, taking a sample of the suspected tissue and analysing it to confirm this diagnosis. As a result, the diagnosis is often made late-on in the illness.
7 to 9 years for an actual diagnosis
It often takes 7 to 9 years from the appearance of the disease to the actual diagnosis of the disease."
Entrepreneurship or mission?
SC: "You set up your first company aged 25, it was a start-up and even then it was in the medical field and you sold it in 2007. Four years later you founded Endodiag. At the time, what was your motivation for doing this? The desire to start another business? Or was it a kind of mission where you felt committed to the endometriosis cause?"
2011 The Creation of Endodiag
"First of all the starting point came from various encounters: a mixture of friends around me talking about this condition called endometriosis they suffered from, and which I knew nothing about. At it was also through meeting doctors and biologists who had been working on this disease for quite a few years already. As for the desire to start a business: I think that starting up a business when you are young means you will always have that desire within you and it is a deep-rooted part of your personality. As well as that, there was also amazement that nothing was being done for these women."
ST: "Can you sum up what the different stages of research have been for the past nine years?"
CR: "The research on endometriosis began by trying to gain a better understanding of the disorder by working on these notorious endometrial lesions which are quite characteristic of the disease, and then finding signals sent by these lesions elsewhere in the body. So we work in particular on the endometrium which can be accessed at a gynaecologist's practice without having to go into hospital for surgery. And then more simply, working with blood. After gaining this understanding of the disease, and to look for these markers, first we worked with existing samples, a few samples that we collected here and there.
The largest clinical study in the world on endometriosis
Then we structured clinical research first on a small group of patients and then more recently on a much larger group of patients: around 1300.
The most advanced project is a blood test to allow early diagnosis of endometriosis so that as soon as a woman complains of symptoms, pains or fertility problems, this blood test can be carried out to test for these biomarkers. Therefore a diagnosis can be made far earlier than is currently the case, where they have to go through surgery and that long procedure known as "diagnostic wandering". These patients are currently faced with quite a high level of physical and psychological suffering, not knowing what they are suffering from."
ST: "You benefit from the support of Credit Mutuel Innovation which is a subsidiary of Credit Mutuel Equity. How did you find your investors? What criteria did you use to choose them? And what do you expect from them ultimately during this support stage?"
CR: "We had already met Credit Mutuel Equity before the company was created, and it was a relationship built on the length of our acquaintance and the development of mutual trust and thanks to this we were able to share the Endodiag project with them right from it's inception and explain a little about what direction we wanted to move in and how we were developing the project. Very naturally when we were looking for funds, we asked Credit Mutual Innovation to support us in this development phase. The choice was very important to us. In particular it was important for us to have a shareholder who shared our values, that was a very important point, and the second was to have a partner who could accompany us in the long term and also along different paths because a large number of professions are covered by this group, allowing us to envisage different paths of development with sustainable support."
ST: "Finally, Cécile Réal, perhaps you can give some advice to entrepreneurs who wish to start transformation projects like yours, over quite long time periods?"
CR: "I think that patience and resilience are two very strong characteristics which are needed for this type of project. I think it is very important to believe in one's vision and to keep this as the objective, and also I think it is difficult to lead a project alone, you need to know how to surround yourself with the best possible people in areas where you are perhaps less strong and to surround yourself at all levels: the team within the company, the shareholders and the outside partners, because I think we always move faster when we are well accompanied and work in a team."
ST: "Thank you Cécile Réal."
CR: "Thank you."