The 2011/03/01 at 16:18
Alexandre T. Analis
A business lawyer by training with a DESS postgraduate diploma in company management, François Cousin, 58 years old, joined Cousin Frères in 1986, and has presided over the company Cousin Biotech since its creation in 1995. He was previously Deputy Manager of a Caisse d’Épargne branch and also worked for the Groupe Maison Familiale (GMF) in Cambrai, a real-estate group which has since stopped business.
Commerce International: In what circumstances was the company Cousin Biotech founded?
François Cousin: “This company is an heir to a northern French industrial tradition. Founded in 1848 in Comines, the company Cousin Frères moved to Wervicq-Sud in 1922. At first, it was a company specialising in the retwisting of linen. Cousin Frères began weaving activities in 1870 and even became the first French company to manufacture industrial sew- ing thread based on continuous poly-amide in 1947. Rope was added to the palette of the metiers of Cousin Frères shortly afterwards. When the medical activity started in 1993, the managers decided to set up a company for each activity. So the company Cousin Biotech as such was born two years later.”
What companies have stemmed from the diversification, then the division of the Cousin Frères group?
F.C.: “There are four of them. First of all there is Cousin Filtrerie which took over the group’s main historic activity, that is the manufacturing of industrial sewing thread. In 2003, it was sold to a German group. Cousin Trestec specialises in technical ropes (military, deep-level drilling…) or ropes for leisure activities (yachting, cave exploring, mountaineering, paragliding, kite-surfing…). Cousin Composites draws together two activities: the reinforcement of optic cables and tennis racket strings with the Technifibre brand which belongs to Major Sport, a subsidiary 50% owned by the company. Finally, Cousin Biotech manufactures and sells implantable medical systems. In 2008, Cousin Frères sold to Dalle et Associés all non-medical activities.”
How can an industrial group make a shift from textiles to cutting-edge medical technologies?
F.C.: “We wanted to take risks, and in the past, had already scored a few successes as we had managed to introduce small ropes into planes and satellites. One day, a client ordered very unique ropes from us, for which we provided a rather substantial quote. But the client still went ahead with the purchase. He wanted ropes with two buckles and a blocking system to replace anterior cruciate ligaments in the knee. We thus began manufacturing ligaments, then other medical products, and our brand expanded increasingly.”
Can you briefly present your medical implant ranges?
F.C.: “We manufacture a whole range of parietal reinforcement systems for repairing abdominal hernias (especially for males) and eventration. This range allows us to respondto all schools of surgery: open and laparoscopic… We also have a series of urological-gynaecological implants for combating urinary incontinence and prolapse (or organ descent in everyday speech) often due to multiple pregnancies… We manufacture adjustable gastric bands in three sizes with different implantable chambers, adhesive or non-adhesive (some thirty references). For spinal surgery, we make dynamic interspinal and dynamic interlaminary devices, as well as devices in mesh or silicone. Dynamism is an important element because it allows joint movement to be maintained. Our orthopaedic range is made up of ligaments for knees, but also shoulders. Our main clients are surgeons but also industrial companies for which we are sub-contractors via the intermediary of a special unit.”
What importance do you place on R&D?
F.C.: “In our sector, we have to come against competitors of the size of Johnson & Johnson, for example. If we want to keep our end up, we have to be more inventive than others. This is why Cousin Biotech bases much of its growth on research and development, which represents twelve full-time employees with an operational budget representing 17% of our turnover. We lodge five to ten patent applications per year (in France and internationally).”
Can you give the example of a recent accomplishment?
F.C.: “Last year, we created an adhesive parietal reinforcement implant called the Adhésix. It doesn’t stick, can be manipulated very easily, and only becomes adhesive once it is introduced inside the human body. Adhesiveness allows it to become attached, considerably reducing risk of pain compared with stitched or stapled implants. Such a product is also advantageous on the economic level: there is no more need to buy stitching thread or disposable staplers, which cost an average of 200 euros. It cuts down on the time of the surgical procedure by an average of 20 minutes. Everyone comes out a winner: the patient goes through a smaller anaesthetic procedure and operating tables “turn” more quickly. In all, we will need between 4 and 5 years of work to end up with a project that can be sold on the market: the validation of the concept, the patent registration, clinical studies, risk analysis, animal testing…”
More information on www.cousin-biotech.com
• Founded in 1995
• 81 employees + 22 employees in the French subsidiary Cousin Bioserv + 4 employees in Cousin Endosurge (company held in majority by Cousin Frères shareholders)
• Sales made in over 50 countries
• 2010 turnover: 12 million euros
• Growth in turnover compared with 2009: + 25%
• Share of turnover due to export: 80%
Source: Cousin Biotech – January 2011