In Conversation: HMi meets Laurent Thiery CEO of Enalees

Laurent Thiery, CEO Enalees

Enalees, a biotechnology company focused on the development of innovative tests for recreational animals ‒ horses, dogs and cats – is on a rapid growth trajectory.

Established in 2015 in Genopole (Essonne), the company offers two ranges of rapid diagnostic kits for infectious diseases: Epona for horses and Asteria for dogs and cats, from nearly 60 tests.

In 2017, it was integrated into the Hippolia cluster, the only government-certified competitive cluster of innovators in the French horse industry, and in 2018, it reached a milestone moment: the delivery of its first equine tests, Epona. The 8-digit reference codes designated for various tests detecting a panel of fever-causing pathogens: Theileria equi, Babesia caballi, Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Borrelia spp, were launched.

By March 2020, following the Covid-19 lockdown, it was ready to launch its Asteria canine and feline product line.

Since then, the company has been expanding its product range, its production capacity and its sales efforts around Europe and in the US. In November 2022, it opened its first subsidiary in the UK under general manager Lauren Craig, which marked a significant point in its European plans to create a European group dedicated to supporting veterinary professionals with rapid animal diagnostics. In February, it opened its second subsidiary in Germany, appointing Philip Hausen as general manager for the DACH region.

HMi caught up with CEO and co-founder Laurent Thiery to learn more about Enalees’ position in the growing market for veterinary services and Thiery’s aspirations for the company and its staff.

HMi What gap in the market did you identify that gave you the confidence to start the company?

Laurent Thiery (LT) There were two main reasons. The first one was a business reason.

I saw a clear gap in the market for diagnostics, analysis and PCR testing for small animals and horses. At the same time I was aware of lots of useful technologies that could be combined to create something new and exciting in this field.

The second one was frustration at the inefficiencies I saw in big companies and a general lack of job satisfaction in the workforce.

My goal was to be both innovative with products but also in management style.

I have two goals: to improve animal health and to improve the working environment for our staff. It seems to be working, because in six years only two people have left the company.

How has the team at Enalees grown since its inception?

LT We started off with six people in 2015, moving to the Genopole Campus in 2016 where our R&D work began to take off and we have now grown to reach a workforce of 38 globally, four of which are based in the UK.

Have revenues grown at the same rate as the workforce?

LT It took three years to develop the first tests, the first one being for horses, and we launched our first four tests in 2019.

In that year we made €100,000. Now we have 42 kits for equine diseases and 15 kits for canines/felines, and we made €1.5m in 2021. Mainly in France.

This year we hope to make more. We don’t expect to reach such levels of growth each year, but we are confident that we will sell more in 2023 because we’ve only just started targeting the small pets ‒ cats and dogs ‒ market in France. Sales in the UK and Germany will also bring in more revenue as we pursue our international strategy.

How did you finance that three-year period of development and subsequent expansion?

LT In total, we’ve raised around a total of €6m in three or four stages. At first, it was a case of finding the right private investors, but then we also managed to get a loan from Bpifrance. The first years of R&D were financed roughly 60/40 between private investors and Bpifrance.

The second round was raised to hire a sales force in France and the third round was to enable us to move to new buildings in the Genople research centre and to create a rapid PCR test manufacturing site. We received a grant of €500,00 from the Île-de-France region to help with the €1.1m construction costs of this development and the rest was financed by shareholders.

The same private investors have been with us since the beginning. They don’t want to leave.

What is the competitive landscape like for Enalees?

LT There’s not much direct competition really, which is a bit surprising. Competition for similar testing is mainly indirect, from laboratories. In terms of direct competition, we’ve seen a few companies created over the last five years or so that have totally failed to develop tests that perform well, and we’ve also seen some Chinese companies trying to make a mark, but only on the internet, not on the ground.

Our market is small in comparison to the human or livestock market. It’s a niche market but, firstly, it’s big enough for us, and secondly, it’s the market we want to address.

So, for Enalees it’s still very much a ‘blue ocean’ and, fingers crossed, it will remain so for the next few years.

The biggest obstacle to growth we face is not necessarily from the competition but from the conservative nature of the sector ‒ vets are not always the earliest adopters of something new. But we can manage that.

What are the current growth trends in the market for pet services?

LT During Covid, as in other crises, there was a rapid increase in people acquiring pets. Now we’re seeing an unfortunate increase in pets being discarded, but the overall trend is positive.

More and more people are taking more and more animals into the home. There’s increased demand for veterinary services and for any products and services for pets, and that demand will continue to grow.

How are you positioning Enalees to take advantage of the underlying trends in the market?

LT For Enalees, we see our growth prospects as being much bigger in the cats and dogs sector rather than in the equine sector as there are so many more small, domesticated pets than horses.

We reckon there are about 200 clinics in France for horses and around 4,000 for pets. It’s a similar number for the UK and Germany.

In just three years, we have reached a point where around 80% of the equine clinics in France now use our products. Targeting the pet market is perhaps more complex for us as veterinary clinics are doing less PCR testing, but the market is obviously much bigger – 20-times bigger for pets than horses.

It will take us a little longer to reach the same level of penetration in the cats and dogs sector purely because of the sheer number of clinics.

The big plan is to reach an 80% market share of the feline and canine market, but the strategy to achieve that will be slightly different to the one used in the equine sector. It will be a mix of B2B and B2C.

In reality, if we reach a 20% to 25% penetration rate in the next few years then we’ll be happy.

What are your plans for expansion?

LT Geographically, we are looking to expand our operations in Europe and pursue partnerships in the US.

In terms of the product line we aim to launch a minimum of two or three tests per year, depending on the complexity of development.

And for production. We moved into our current building one and half years ago with the aim of building enough capacity to produce one million tests per year.

We manufactured 100,000 tests in 2022, so we still have human and equipment resources to produce more kits to help vet teams on their daily work to diagnose infectious diseases. But, at some point, we will run up against capacity constraints.

We can stay in this building for probably another two or three years, but we will have to move to a new building sooner or later because if our plans for the UK and Europe are realised then we will soon reach the one million tests per year mark and we will have to move again.

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Nick Herbert has over 30 years’ experience in the financial markets, as both a practitioner and journalist. He started work as an investment banker in London, before joining International Financing Review (IFR) to report on debt capital markets and derivatives. He moved to Singapore in 2000 to manage IFR’s financial markets editorial team throughout Asia, before returning to London in 2009 to take up the position of Publisher for Reuters Capital Markets Publications. For the last five years he has been covering global capital markets, ESG finance and healthcare markets on a freelance basis.