Cécile Real is the president and founder of Endodiag, a company she set up in 2011 to develop new diagnostic tools for endometriosis, a disease that affects approximately 10% of all women of childbearing age. In her first post on the Promoting Enterprise blog, she told us about her experience in setting up her business. In this post, she tells us more about what her company does and what are the keys to its success.
At Endodiag, we are working on endometriosis, a major health issue that is not yet well known among the general population. Our objective is to change the paradigm of this disease and bring new solutions for patients. We are working with different groups of partners to build awareness about the disease, and change the lives of 180 million women who suffer a lot and who are generally overlooked.
What do we do?
Since we started the company in 2011, we have been developing a diagnostic test, EndoDtect®, to detect the disease from a simple blood sample. This does away with the need for surgery, which costs EUR 10,000 on average and can, like any other type of surgery, be dangerous. Moreover, this will prevent the progression of the disease as well as potentially safeguard the fertility of patients.
To develop this test, we need to collaborate with different kinds of partners and we have tried to involve them as early as possible in our project.
Our employees and co-founders:
Something essential for our company to be successful is team work. We need talented people to find cures for this tricky disease but, even more important than their talent, we need to mix people with different mind-sets and backgrounds and make sure that we all work well together. This is probably how the most creative ideas and solutions have been achieved in our project.
Like a recipe, each member of the team contributes his/her ideas, know-how and energy
- The surgeons, gynecologists and scientists:
We work hand by hand with surgeons and scientists to understand the disease mechanism and the needs of healthcare professionals for their patients. Our job could be defined as acting as a translator between science, medicine and engineering to transform ideas into products.
- The patients:
The patients are at the heart of our work, but it is not common in our industry to work with them during early stage development of new ideas, new solutions or new products. We have been lucky to meet many of them just after starting the company and this has been both very helpful and very inspiring. Very helpful because, by discussing with them we understood more rapidly certain symptoms/reactions and could correlate them with some of our research findings. This has helped speed up our R&D. And very inspiring, because listening to their suffering and struggles really makes you very motivated to solve the problem.
Despite these collaborations, we rapidly understood that developing technological solutions was necessary to change the paradigm of this disease, but that if we did not also raise awareness about endometriosis, we would only be solving half of the problem. If the population, the doctors and public institutions are not aware of endometriosis, its symptoms and consequences, it will be very difficult to detect the disease early and manage the patients well.
In order to raise awareness, in 2013 we launched OZ2020 in collaboration with patient associations, gynecologists, scientists and BePatient (a start-up specialised in the development of eHealth solutions). OZ2020 is a web community on endometriosis. The platform contributes to raising awareness but also provides patients with qualified and validated scientific and medical information on endometriosis and helps support endometriosis research projects.
We remain convinced that, thanks to all our common efforts with patient associations, industry, doctors and public authorities, the time to say “women don’t need to suffer anymore” will soon be here.
Cécile Real is the president and founder of Endodiag, a company she set up in 2011 to develop new diagnostic tools for endometriosis, a disease that affects approximately 10% of all women of childbearing age. In a series of blog posts over the next few weeks, Cécile will tell us about her experience in setting up her business.
I was lucky to start my first company at the age of 25. I use the word ‘lucky’ because, despite the fact that it is very challenging, being an entrepreneur is a very exciting and fulfilling occupation or, should I say, way of life. You think about it 24/7, but it gives you the opportunity to meet incredible people along the way and achieve things you never imagined you would.
When I told my father that I wanted to start my own company, he had an unexpected reaction, saying: “fine, fine, but don’t stop looking for a real job”. Hopefully when I called him back few weeks later to tell him that I had decided to launch my first company, he realised I was serious about doing it and he became my N°1 supporter. Without knowing it, that was probably the first key lesson I learnt.
Trust your instinct! You have to have the confidence to go ahead and do it! There is more than one way to be successful and you have to make your own way. Just because some people do things differently to you, it doesn’t mean that they are right and you are wrong. I do feel that sometimes women have a lack of confidence in themselves. Some people will agree with you and some won’t, but that’s not a good enough reason for you not to do it. Be smart, listen to others, and then make your own decision and strategy.
As a biomedical engineer I have always wanted to work on projects that address health issues. So my first company was developing new biomaterials for patients suffering from arthritis. After eight years of successful development, we were bought by a large orthopaedics company. I learnt a lot but I wanted to see other ideas, projects, and organisations, so I decided to help others to start or develop their companies. However, after two years of this, I was definitively missing being an entrepreneur and I wanted to find a new project that could have a strong social impact. That opportunity presented itself when I learnt about endometriosis.
Endometriosis is a chronic and disabling gynaecological disease affecting 180 million women worldwide, as many as suffer from diabetes. It involves tissue that normally grows inside the uterus growing outside it and invading other organs (ovary, bladder, colon…). It is associated with a variety of symptoms, particularly severe and unbearable pelvic pain and infertility (50%).
The only reliable diagnosis of endometriosis is through invasive surgery. On average, this surgery is performed nine years after the onset of the disease. Nine years of not knowing the cause of your pain and the associated emotional distress has a tremendous impact on a person’s social, personal and professional life. Even after surgical intervention the recurrence rate is very high (approximately 50% after two years) and endometriosis patients will have an average of five surgeries during their lifetime. A lot of people think pain during menstruation is normal… but endometriosis actually affects one in ten women.
Driven by a desire to provide healthcare professionals and patients with a better understanding of the illness and better diagnosis tools, we set up Endodiag in 2011…
Cécile REAL and Helene BENY, 1st employee of the company @Endodiag Lab