Innovation: François Brown is at the heart of the Urgo artificial skin research laboratory


After the opening of the new Cell Therapy Laboratory in Urgo, on Friday, December 16, in Chenov, the Minister of Health made a special visit to the facilities. “Urgo is betting on France and is betting on innovation,” said the head of the industrial group.

Best known for its bandages, the Urgo Group claims to be the first manufacturer in the world to market “synthetic leather”. This requires research work to be conducted in the new Genesis laboratory.

On Friday, December 16, 2022, the Minister of Health and Prevention went to Chenouve, on the outskirts of Dijon to inaugurate this first achievement in a possible medical revolution planned for the year 2030.

Around the Minister and Governor of Côte d’Or Franck Robin, the delegation consisted in particular of the Renaissance parliamentarians of Côte d’Or Fadila El Khatabi, Didier Martin and François Patriat, as well as Marie-Gate Dufay. (PS), President of the Regional Council of Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, François Rebsamine (PS), President of Dijon Métropole, Daniel Jobin (unnamed), Vice-President of Dijon Métropole, Françoise Tennenbaum (PS), Vice-President of Dijon Métropole, and Didier Girard ( PS), Chancellor of the Municipality of Chenouf, Tristan Le Lous, President of the Urgo Group, Guirec Le Lous, President of Urgo Médical, and Jacques Coiplet, Director General of the Regional Health Agency Bourgogne-Franche-Comté.

“Urgo is betting on France and betting on innovation”

“France is the land of innovation in the field of health,” Frenchwoman Braun welcomes, speaking after cutting the tricolor ribbon in front of the new building called “Nemo”.

The Minister encourages Urgo to “go out on this brand-new path, and somewhere, little known to synthetic leather, is extraordinarily challenging.”

The minister salutes the “innovative family business” with a name composed of the middle letters of the word “Bourgogne”, created in 1882 and today the first private employer in the Cote d’Or.

“It’s been 140 years since Urgo bet on France and bet on innovation”, agrees the head of the industrial group that generates 750 million euros in annual turnover and employs 3,500 employees, including 1,800 in France and 1,000 in Dijon. In 2020, the company invested 33 million euros in research and development.

“The goal declared by the President of the Republic is to make France the leading European country in the field of biotherapy,” says the minister.

Emmanuel Macron wanted to create a plan to support innovation. It was baptized “France 2030”, and it was given 54 billion euros (Read our article).

“Reduce suffering and cost to our health care system”

“Wound healing is the DNA of your company,” points out François Brown. After the first easy-to-use bandage created in the 1970s, in the 2000s the bandages providing healing became the focus of the emergency physician by profession on the artificial skin that Urgo operates on.

“I can imagine all the indications,” François Brown exclaims excitedly, contemplating the replacement of damaged skin in severe burns.

“[La peau] It is the largest organ in the human body, and it is the largest and most complex in treatment, and severe wounds are difficult to heal, and require multiple and repeated surgeries, whether they are acute wounds, or chronic wounds,” explains the medical minister.

“This innovation is a way to reduce the suffering, the risk of infection, and the cost to our health care system for patients who receive very long care. It is a promise of collective success that opens up many prospects for the health of tomorrow.”

“There is an unmet medical need.”

“Healing of severe wounds, such as severe burns, requires care in a specialized hospital setting,” we actually explain inside Urgo.

To date, autografts are the only effective treatment for these wounds. This includes multiple surgeries, allowing for skin removal and grafting, and a long hospital stay (30 days on average) as well as long-term follow-up in community medicine. These particularly painful wounds have a significant impact on patients’ quality of life.”

Thus, there is an unmet medical need insofar as the available therapeutic solutions still have significant drawbacks. Among these, in addition to the suffering of the patient, is the high cost of care for the health system, which can reach 100,000 euros for treating the most serious burns.

Genesis, an investment of 100 million euros

Urgo’s new research program represents an investment of €100m, including €22.8m provided by BPI France. The region of Bourgogne-Franche-Comté and the city of Dijon also support the project with 800,000 euros. CNRS, Généthon and the French Blood Foundation are scientific partners and Dassault Systèmes provides its expertise.

According to Guirec Le Lous, “the best experts in cellular therapy in France” are taking part in the research programme. Today we are the most advanced project in France.

Eleven employees manage the new laboratory. They have already taken a first step by creating a “cell bank” that will be involved in the creation of artificial skin.

The first patient in the clinical trial is expected to enter a clinical trial in 2027 and be commercialized in 2030.

A futuristic European center of medicine dedicated to skin healing

Al-Khattabi praised this “researcher’s work”, “there are very great successes, and real dynamism.” “We have to make sure that we are independent in terms of health.”

François Patriat amplifies this point by emphasizing the important part of the researchers among Urgo’s collaborators: there are 200 of them in the company.

Health players and local authorities are considering setting up a European center for innovative therapeutic medicines dedicated to skin healing in the Dijon metropolitan area.

Genesis software cell bank discovery

After a period of discussion with company directors and local elected officials, François Braun gave an exclusive tour of the new controlled-atmosphere laboratory, including presentation of an extract from a bank of cells compiled by the cell therapy researchers.

During the first leg of the day, the Health Secretary opened the Thorey-en-Plaine Health Center and responded to GP’s concerns about delegating tasks, lamenting being “misled” on the subject.

The final sequence of the official visit took place behind closed doors at the Hôtel de Région, in Dijon, for discussions in the presence of Marie-Gêtte Dufay as part of the health department of the National Council for Reconstitution.

Jean-Christophe Tardefon

“I want to take care of the health of my caregivers,” stated François Brown while opening Maison de santé de Thorey-en-Plaine


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