An industrial, family adventure for three generations
Made in Dijon by Jean Le Lous
In 1958, Jean Le Lous, a young pharmacist at the head of the Fournier Laboratories in Dijon, created the URGO brand. A former military pharmacist, he had experienced the shortage of bandages during the war. URGO was thus born of Jean Le Lous’ desire to create a French dressing business, making them accessible to individuals and pharmacies.
The slogan “Il y a de l’Urgo dans l’air, il y a de l’air dans Urgo” (There’s Urgo in the air, there’s air in Urgo”), which people still remember today, was launched in 1979.
Si Juvabien, c’est Juvamine: the story continues with his son Hervé Le Lous
The entrepreneurial adventure of Hervé Le Lous, Jean Le Lous’ son, began in 1987. With a PhD from Stanford Business School (California), an MBA from Wharton School of Finance (Philadelphia) and a former student of the Ecole Normale Supérieure (Paris, 1974), along with some of his students, he bought and relaunched the business of an SME, which was rechristened Laboratoires Juva Santé a few years later.
Juvamine was launched with the ambition of making vitamins – which were only sold in pharmacies at the time – accessible to all in supermarkets, based on the model that existed in the United States. The brand met with great success, driven by the televised advertising campaign in the unprecedented “triplet” format: three ten-second commercials in a row. This company was the first in what now forms the URGO Group.
Hervé Le Lous turned URGO into a laboratory at the cutting edge of innovation and successfully carried out several acquisitions to consolidate the Group’s solid positioning on its long-standing markets and develop new ones: URGO acquired Mercurochrome in 1996, Marie-Rose and Super Diet in 1997, it strengthened its position on the dietary supplement segment with the acquisition of Herbesan, OM3 and Alvityl in 2007, and it enriched its brand portfolio with Ricqlès peppermint spirit in 2008 and Belloc plant charcoal in 2009.
Innovation in the blood!
In the 2000s, the Group massively invested in research and innovation to develop innovative dressings to heal and significantly improve the life of patients suffering from severe, incapacitating wounds.
The discovery of lipido-colloid technology in 2000 initiated the Group’s “healing” activity with the tulle “gras non gras au toucher”, ie a tulle gras which is not greasy when touched, to treat and relieve burns. The Urgo Medical company, dedicated to the development of medical dressings, was created. Innovations followed in the field of chronic wounds (leg ulcers, diabetic foot wounds, bedsores) with compression bands for the treatment of venous leg ulcers, and solutions for cleaning wounds.
Proof of its international recognition, URGO was the subject of a publication by the prestigious scientific journal The Lancet*. This study highlights the effectiveness of a dressing technology that significantly reduces the time it takes to heal a diabetic foot wound. With one diabetes-related amputation every 20 seconds worldwide, faster healing and avoiding the risk of infection is key to changing patients’ lives.
Industry: URGO’s strategic weapon
With its two industrial development units, ten production sites and twelve distribution centres worldwide, the URGO Group is an industrial group. It has made industry a key driver of its growth and innovation strategy.
Our industrial mission is to offer all our customers, patients and consumers in almost 70 countries innovative healthcare solutions that meet their needs.
We are convinced that our industrial talent plays a full role in accelerating the group’s development, allowing a rapid time-to-market, carefully controlled quality and secure procurement. To this end:
• We develop and industrialise the production means necessary to manufacture and process our healthcare solutions.
• We group together researchers, clinicians and production engineers on the same site and practise “double innovation”: when we develop a product, we also develop the manufacturing facilities required to produce it.
“At the heart of URGO, there is both a desire for French industrialisation and a desire for innovation at the highest level. This is URGO today: a French healthcare business at the forefront of innovation.” Tristan Le Lous
The Group expanded internationally in the 1980s, establishing a presence in Germany. URGO took its first steps in Asia ten years later. From the 2000s, the URGO Group made international business the main focus of its development strategy and established itself in Europe in the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Poland and Belgium. The Group then developed at the four corners of the globe with a presence in Latin America, Australia and the United States, where it successfully established itself in 2018 thanks to the acquisition of the company SteadMed.
The Group today: continuous innovation
In 2019, the URGO Group changed generation and set up a family chairmanship that rotates every three years between Hervé Le Lous’ three sons: Briac, Tristan and Guirec, who have been heavily involved in the company for over 15 years. Briac Le Lous began the cycle of rotating chairmanships and was chairman of the URGO Group until 2022, when Tristan Le Lous took over from him.
Briac, Tristan and Guirec Le Lous are driven by a strong ambition to develop the URGO companies to meet a growing treatment need linked to the explosion of chronic diseases (diabetes, pain, digestion, etc.). To this end, the URGO Group is massively investing with an investment plan of 300 million euros devoted to R&D and 80 million euros dedicated to industry between 2020 and 2030.
URGO today counts 3,500 members of staff, present in 20 countries and on 10 industrial sites.
Our ambitions for the future:
– Meet, even better than ever, the growing treatment need linked to chronic conditions by inventing new, increasingly natural healthcare solutions with tried-and-tested effectiveness.
– Conduct disruptive research projects, such as GENESIS. A real innovation challenge, artificial skin production will become a reality by the 2030s thanks to the research conducted by our R&D laboratory in Dijon. Whereas wounds that are extremely difficult to heal require multiple surgical interventions and medical follow-up in a non-hospital setting over a long period, this innovative new therapeutic solution will make it possible to reduce patients’ suffering and the risk of infection, as well as the cost for the healthcare system.
*Edmonds M, Lázaro JL, Piaggesi A, et al. Sucrose octasulfate dressing versus control dressing in patients with neuroischaemic diabetic foot ulcers (Explorer): an international, multicentre, double-blind, randomised, controlled trial. The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology. 20 December 2017. On-line. Study led with UrgoStart Contact.