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A leader in chromatography substrates

An upmarket industrial estate nestling amongst the trees, a stone’s throw from the scientific university at Cergy-Pontoise... This is where Thérèse Bourdy, Managing Director of BioSepra since 1995 decided to implant the company in an understated but aesthetically pleasing functional building in October 1999. With 40 million francs in sales (two thirds of which were in export markets) and forty employees, the former Rhône Poulenc subsidiary specialised in Chromatography (industrial purification of molecules in medicines) joined the American group Life Technologies in May 1999 after eight years (from 1991 to May 1999) with Sepracor (United States). The changeover was a little disruptive but came about as a result of market specialisation. As the giants grew they had to streamline their activities into the pharmaceutical business and separate it from their related activities. As a result BioSepra was at the forefront of the profession and therefore one of the branches that were for the chop!
"I hope that our mother company will keep us on this time" says Thérèse Bourdy, attempting to explain a complex activity in a highly pedagogical manner. "Our clients (pharmaceuticals, biotechnologies or food industries) really manufacture all sorts of soups and their objective is to obtain pure molecules. To do so they use purification tools called chromatography substrates. These are small beads which attract the molecule in question which will eventually become a medicine. We manufacture these little beads". The company currently has the largest purification columns in the world capable of supplying 3000 litres of chromatography substrates.
Relocating to Cergy-Pontoise was highly symbolic for BioSepra which had been housed in premises at Rhône Poulenc at Villeneuve-la-Garenne (Hauts-de-Seine) since 1986. Since the site was entirely given over to chemicals there was little coherence with the company’s business. In view of these conditions it was difficult to create a proper image.
A new chapter has definitely been opened with the construction of the factory in the Val d’Oise. The 4000 m2 (25 million French francs in investment) of ultra modern premises should enable the French subsidiary of Life Technologies to firmly establish its place among the top 5 global companies in the business. "Given the highly technical nature of our activity I felt that it was important to keep knowledge and skill within the company" explained the manager. "The average age of our employees is relatively high and they have already settled down. One third live in Paris, another third in the Hauts-de-Seine and a third in Val d’Oise. Although I admit that I was tempted by Sophia Antipolis near Nice, or Montpellier we also needed to be near a truly international airport. In view of all these requirements, I chose the Val d’Oise near Paris because of its efficient road system and the presence of Roissy airport). I also wanted an to be in attractive business park and not a former industrial wasteland. This is why we came to Cergy-Pontoise."

On the strength of this choice, Thérèse Bourdy will be able to rise to the technological challenges of the future: developing chromatographic substrates capable of purifying monoclonal anti-bodies, i.e. medicines used for treating cancer.

The company is also the driving force behind a European Eureka project (budget of 40 million French francs) on DNA and genetic engineering.

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