Winner of the 2022 edition of the INPI Trophies, which reward emblematic companies of French innovation, Abolis - by its managing director, Valérie Brunel - went back over the history and ambitions of this small company who grow in the biotechnology sector. A story that began almost eight years ago on the Genopole campus...
Can you introduce Abolis to us ?
Abolis was created at Genopole in 2014 with one ambition: to use biotechnologies to develop thanks to environmentally friendly production processes. Concretely, we program micro-organisms to produce - through fermentation - active ingredients or raw materials used by pharmaceutical, cosmetic, nutritional or fine chemical companies.
Why did you choose Genopole to launch your business ?
Abolis was indeed born within the biocluster. Cyrille Pauthenier, co-founder of Abolis, was doing his thesis in one of the research laboratories hosted by Genopole when he conceived the company's project. Once he had his idea in mind, all he had to do was to cross the street to share it with the Genopole Entreprise team, which helped him draw up his business plan, promote his project and find the first funds. At the same time, he took part in the competition organised by the biocluster and aimed - at the time - at young innovative biotech companies. He was successful, as his project won the Jury's "Coup de Coeur" award, which gave him access to an office and to Genopole's platforms. Shortly afterwards, his project won the World Innovation Contest, which led him to launch his company and hire his first employee much more quickly than expected. Genopole's support was decisive in each of these phases since, at the time of its launch, Genopole supported us, gave us access to its platforms and helped us find our first offices.
Today, Abolis has its own premises... still within Genopole?
There are now just over 50 of us working at Abolis... still within Genopole! (Smiles) Since its launch in 2014, Abolis has grown considerably. We have taken on many new staff and expanded our premises. This development has been facilitated by our collaboration with the biocluster which, thanks to its experience with biotech companies and start-ups, has supported us at every stage of our project by meeting most of our needs in terms of equipment, laboratory space and office space. One of the advantages of the biocluster for a young company is its capacity to adapt, which enables it to meet the needs of companies both when they are encountering difficulties and are still fragile and when they are developing.
What are the major stages in the development of Abolis ?
Going from an under-rented office in a corner of a lab to a half-floor building seemed to us, at the time, a real turning point. We thought we would be there for years... A year later, we also occupied the floor above! Everything went very quickly. Fortunately, Genopole's ability to offer us solutions enabled us to manage each stage of our growth relatively easily. It's important for managers to find the right conditions to allow them to plan ahead and grow serenely, at the right pace, while remaining focused on their core business !
Hence the interest in the new real estate programme launched by Genopole?
We currently occupy around 1,500 m² of laboratory and office space. It's always possible to find a small or medium-sized additional space, but it's more complex to acquire larger premises. In order not to fall victim to its own success and to keep growing companies on its site, Genopole needed to launch a new real estate programme. This has now been done and will offer new opportunities for biotech companies on the site.
After having used Genopole platforms for a long time, you now have your own platforms ?
Although we still use a certain number of platforms for traditional operations in our field, our development meant that we had to have equipment specific to our business. We also operate one of the Genopole platforms. In concrete terms, this means that Genopole has entrusted us with its management and - as with all the biocluster's platforms – it’s open to companies hosted on site.
What are Abolis' ambitions for the future ?
We began by working on the production of high added value molecules. The demand from companies to secure their supply chain and produce in a more responsible way remains important in many fields. Our ambition is to continue the work we have been doing for several years in other sectors of activity to work on molecules that are more widely used and that still have a significant environmental impact. At the same time, we should have the first products from our technologies on the market by 2025 ; a major step for Abolis. We also have many other projects that are all aimed at adding to develop our activity, but it's still a bit early to tell you more...
In any case, your common history with Genopole seems set to continue ?
Genopole has been involved in the birth and early development of Abolis. It's a real comfort for a company to be welcomed on a site specialised in its field of activity, we feel understood. From our successes to our difficulties and our problems with premises, Genopole is there to listen to us and find appropriate solutions, whatever the issues. The recent link-up with the University of Paris-Saclay, which is now a world-renowned cluster, is also an excellent signal of the biocluster's ability to meet future challenges in the development of cutting-edge biotechnology companies.
A final word for young entrepreneurs who are still hesitating to join Genopole...
We are stronger together than alone. Genopole's success is intrinsically linked to the success of the companies that are housed there. There is no doubt that our environment includes a number of leading companies such as Yposkesi, Ÿnsect and Global Bioenergies, which not only contribute to the attractiveness of Genopole but also enrich the know-how, expertise, skills and partnership opportunities available. Initially focused on healthcare, Genopole has evolved to welcome a new generation of entrepreneurs working on original innovations for new sectors, such as nutrition, energy and materials. The biocluster has anticipated this change of direction and is taking advantage of this new momentum to breathe new life into the entire Genopole ecosystem.