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The second phase of a winning start-up


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“Echosens’ products have become successful globally in a very short space of time, with currently 40% of sales in the US, 40% in Europe and 20% in Asia,” reports Mr. Henrichwark, CEO of the firm since June 2018. “The core reason is that FibroScan® radically simplifies the monitoring of the liver, is cost effective, and the results are easy to interpret and communicate to the patient. An examination takes three minutes and you don’t need a special qualification to do it. It’s the perfect product for a time when healthcare systems are looking to become better and be more efficient, and where patients want to make informed decisions about their health.”

The company’s fundamental ability to continuously innovate is what the CEO has identified as being central to the firm’s competitive advantage. As Mr. Henrichwark explains: “Keeping the focus on research and development has been key to our success. Having our founder Laurent Sandrin as our CTO is key to preserving our innovative start-up DNA in R&D, continuously broadening the applications of FibroScan®. That has allowed us to move beyond an initial clinical research focus to become a key player in identifying and monitoring liver disease caused by Hepatitis C. That was a real turning point in raising FibroScan®’s profile as powerful technology in the medical community.”

This leads Mr. Henrichwark to the next level for the company: a focus on the US and the NASH market. “FDA approval for Echosens took nine years in total, despite having over 1,000 peer-reviewed publications. We were rewarded for our persistence and, after approval in the US in 2013, sold something like 1,000 instruments within two years. Our US business has been a primary driver of growth ever since but there is still plenty of room to grow our installed base.”

“Maintaining the start-up spirit of the firm allowed us to stay open to learning continuously about drivers of growth for our products and technologies” begins the CEO. “The company is much larger now, but in order to build on our success, we always need to remember that this made Echosens successful in the first place. For instance, it’s this ambition to constantly develop FibroScan® technology further and expand geographically that has led our China subsidiary to develop, manufacture, and sell products specifically for the Chinese market.”

Geographically, one market that is still proving particularly tough is Germany. “The US healthcare market is internally competitive and our products give doctors a competitive edge in their markets. That made it easier to establish ourselves as a leader and standard of care more quickly. In markets such as Germany, which is less internally competitive and is more radiology centric, it’s more a case of ‘what we have has worked well so far so why change?’ FibroScan®’s clinical relevance is making an impact in Germany, just more slowly. When you break into nationalized healthcare markets, you do need more time to get in, especially as a smaller company. Once accepted, you can more quickly proliferate nationally, so it’s a real ambition of ours,” notes Mr. Henrichwark.

On the future of FibroScan®, the CEO has identified three areas of growth: “Our biggest focus is being the NASH patient identification and monitoring platform of choice. NASH is a multi-billion dollar market and our technology is uniquely well placed to meet that market’s needs. Secondly, entering the primary healthcare market with a new generation of easier-to-use FibroScan® is a particular point of need and interest; this will happen within the next two years. Thirdly, we are integrating FibroScan®’s numerical outputs for liver stiffness and fat content with other biomarkers, such as AST, to develop algorithms that are precise and specific yet simple to understand for NASH patient identification and monitoring.”

Under Mr. Henrichwark’s leadership, this mature enterprise has kept at its heart the flair and courage it possessed as a small start-up in the 13th arrondissement of Paris. It is about taking nothing for granted, and looking forward to the next phase.

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