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Destiny is a random path to which we give direction. Nothing predisposed the Chibrets to become major players in the European pharmaceutical industry in the field of ophthalmology.
The story of the Chibret family in ophthalmology began with Paul Chibret, a young military doctor, at the end of the Second Empire. This visionary became the originator of an industrial saga that continues to this day.
Five generations of Chibret, of strong personalities brimming with ideas and energy, shared the same desire to do business and the same passion for research and ophthalmology.
Consult "the Chibret family, the legacy of ophthalmology" brochure
Chairman of Laboratoires Théa
Founder of Transphyto and Laboratoires Théa
Chairman of the Board of Théa Holding
Fondateur et PDG de Biophysic Medical
CEO of Laboratoires Chibret
Founder of Laboratoires Chibret
Founder of the Société Française d’Ophtalmologie
Consult the various biographies of the dynasty CHIBRET
As chairman since 2008 of Laboratoires Théa, Jean-Frédéric Chibret is now the successor to Henri Chibret (who remains at the head of Théa Holding and now focuses on the scientific and financial strategy of the group). Following a business education and a two-year apprenticeship in the Spanish subsidiary (2000-2001), Jean-Frédéric has been involved in international activities that he gradually guided and structured by creating new subsidiaries in Germany, the UK, Ireland, Poland and Greece and by launching an exclusive sales network in Africa and the Maghreb.
In 2009, Jean-Frédéric presided over the acquisition of several products in the Novartis ophthalmic range, which opened the door to Théa in many countries such as Russia.
With Jean-Fréderic at the helm, Laboratoires Théa has pursued its rapid expansion, attaining a stronger presence in Europe than the former Laboratoires Chibret and becoming a key player in the field of European ophthalmology (whilst distributing their products in over 65 countries worldwide).
Moreover, Théa's territorial growth has been combined with a significant expansion of its product range. Jean-Frédréric's wish is to be able to offer a complete range of products to all ophthalmologists, in the areas of diagnosis, surgery and therapeutic treatments. Théa's commitment to in-house research and monitoring of technological developments, combined with its targeted acquisition strategy are means to the same goal: the fulfilment of all ophthalmologists' needs, whatever their mode of practice.
So, with Théa, family companies have once again shown that they are well equipped to meet today's challenges: a patient but particularly successful type of capitalism that puts people and long term development at the heart of its business.
More than ever, the future of Laboratoires Théa is based on the company's sound economic health and innovative development, but also on the family's capacity and desire to pursue its industrial route.
ollowing his pharmacy degree in Clermont-Ferrand and one year in North America in New York and Quebec, Henri Chibret was entrusted with the management of the ensemble of Chibret Laboratories export activities in 1965.
One of his priorities was to set up Chibret in Germany (with Pierre Czapinski who was working for Franco-German reconciliation) and in the emerging Gulf countries, Iran, Irak and Saudi Arabia. Following the handover of Chibret Laboratories to Merck in 1969, Henri pursued his career for several years with Merck in Belgium and then with Ferlux in Clermont-Ferrand.
In 1978 he created Transphyto Laboratories which developed new ophthalmic molecules. A resoundingly innovative strategy which made Transphyto one of France's first 'start-ups' with French or foreign laboratories responsible for producing and marketing his innovations. Transphyto's revenue was generated by royalties and the sale of patented raw materials. The second original factor was to externalize the majority of research activity to subcontractors and the best medical research institutes.
Henri's collaboration with Professor Philippe Lapalus from the Nice Faculty of Medicine and with Pierre-Paul Elena (Iris-Pharma) were precious concerning the subjects of toxicology and ocular pharmacology. Transphyto's principal partners were Allergan, Ciba-Vision, MSD... This strategy was very productive in terms of R&D but did not allow Transphyto to be recognized by ophthalmologists. The company was also very dependent on its licensees. In 1994, Théa Laboratories was created in order to commercialize Transphyto's new products, in France initially and later throughout Europe.
Théa Laboratories development is based (like that of Chibret Laboratories and Biophysic Medical) on innovation, notably in the domain of dry-eye, ocular herpes, allergy, glaucoma, infection etc. The latest product is an Azithromycine ointment (AZYTER), the first short duration treatment for purulent bacterial conjunctivitis and trachoma. Théa purchased some well-known ointments from Merck in 2004 (Chibro-Cadron, Rifamycine Chibret, Chibroxine, Mydriaticum) which complete Théa's range in the French and foreign markets.
Henri Chibret followed his family's tradition and developed innovative packaging for his products. In 1996 he launched the first preservative-free vial – the ABAK – which keeps contents sterile for two months after opening through the use of a filtering membrane. Undesirable side effects from preservatives are therefore avoided. Ironically, Henri got rid of the preservative that his father had introduced some 50 years before ! The ABAK system is very successful with sales of over 10 million vials per year.
At the beginning of the twenty-first century, Henri set himself three targets: to increase research efforts, to continue the expansion of the group in Europe (Théa is the leading independent eye care company in Europe) and to establish his nephew Jean-Frédéric CHIBRET at the helm of the company.
Under Jacques' leadership, Biophysic Medical became world leader in ophthalmic sonograms and second in the field of ophthalmic lasers.
This success was achieved by analysis driven by the requirements of practitioners. It is also explained in particular, by Jacques Chibret’s creation of a multidisciplinary team that allowed him to merge their expertise and know-how. Leading researchers in the most varied fields (tubes, fibre optics, micromechanics, microelectrics, etc.) agreed to work together. The result of this collective work: revolutionary medical imaging devices made in Clermont-Ferrand, was sold worldwide.
Jean CHIBRET passed on his entrepreneurial, innovative and exportation passion to his two sons Henri and Jacques. Biophysic Medical was created in 1974 and marketed an automatic electrophysiological device (Pantops). The research for this project was carried out in collaboration with the Ophthalmology Service of Clermont-Ferrand's University Hospital (CHU) with Professors Rouher, Solé and Alfieri.
Professor Jean Haut from CHNO, Quinze-Vingts in Paris and Doctor Pujol helped Biophysic Medical to develop the up-and-coming sonogram technique. Jean Haut and Florence Pinon played a determining role in the elaboration of the first European ophthalmic argon laser used in the treatment of retinopathies. The first YAG laser used for the treatment of secondary cataracts was developed with Professor Aron Rosa in 1983.
He also built the first carbon dioxide laser for gynecological coelioscopic surgery with Professor Bruhat (Clermont-Ferrand).
Under Jacques' leadership, Biophysic Medical became world leader in ophthalmic sonograms and second in the field of ophthalmic lasers.
As with Chibret Laboratories, Biophysic Medical became a 'large company that was too small' in the 1980's. To become a major player on the American market which represented 70% of the global market, Biophysic Medical joined the French group Synthelabo Biomedical via the principal shareholder - l'Oréal. Thus Biophysic Medical USA was created in 1984 with Alain Charmant as Director and was very rapidly successful.
Jacques firmly believed in the potential of the Excimer laser for refractive corneal surgery and developed a prototype with Doctor Philippe Crozafon and the University of Nice. This project was suddenly interrupted by Jacques' tragic death in Africa. He was fatally injured in February 1989 during a hunting trip to Cameroon. He had gone there to bring home his father, Jean Chibret's, personal belongings. Jean himself had passed away just a few weeks before. 1989 will forever remain a black year in the family's memory.
Following his pharmacy degrees in Clermont-Ferrand and Toulouse with his future wife, Marquerite Delcher, Jean gave a new national and international dimension to the Chibret Laboratories in the aftermath of the Second World War (number one in Europe, the Middle-East and Africa).
A visionary and an extraordinary entrepreneur, Jean (along with his brother René) proved himself to be an innovative industrialist who developed a wide range of ocular ointments and solutions over two decades. Chibret Laboratories became the leader in the majority of therapeutic classes in the ophthalmology sector, notably for antibiotics and corticoids.
Chibret Laboratories became the leader in the majority of therapeutic classes in the ophthalmology sector, notably for antibiotics and corticoids. The research laboratories were the most important on an international level and worked closely with universities, in particular with Clermont-Ferrand (Professors Pierre Tronche, François Rouher, Roger Cluzel, Pierre Bastide and Henri Pourrat).
In 1946, he visited Merck Laboratories in the United States with whom he developed a close-knit relationship. He obtained their license for streptomycin and also for their corticoid. He launched the fist corticoid based solution which was followed by hydrocortisone and dexamethasone solutions. These products absolutely revolutionized the treatment of ocular inflammation.
Along with molecular research, Jean Chibret was also interested in packaging. Chibret Laboratories were on the cutting edge of innovation using plastic vials, lyophilized vials etc. He was always preoccupied by the serious problems caused by contamination and was the first to introduce preservatives in his solutions and to impose a 'best-before' date. These two apparently simple ideas were adopted by all public health administrative authorities.
Scientific information was another matter. He was the first to understand the importance of audiovisual communication and decided to use this method to help train ophthalmologists. He produced over 200 films with the best people in this discipline.
He opened the world's largest documentation centre (Chibret Institute) which was open to and used by generations of young specialists. He edited the Chibret Review, sent to over 15,000 ophthalmologists. He organized ophthalmology symposiums reuniting interns and doctors each year in Clermont-Ferrand. The Chibret name was synonymous with professional rigor, ethics and quality.
Following the family tradition, he became interested in trachoma and sponsored the International Review, the Gold Medal and numerous research teams. Over the years, he was encouraged by his wife, Guite, who played a very active role in company life.
Chibret Laboratories success was dependent on increasingly important financial investment. Jean Chibret wanted to develop the company internationally despite being subject to rigorous controls and even a price freeze on ophthalmic products in France which penalized the company. In 1969 he decided to join the American group Merck (MSD). The Chibret-MSD group was to become world leader notably with Timoptol ointment. The new factories in Clermont-Ferrand, Riom and Le Puy grew substantially. This alliance is still cited today, 40 years later, as a success model in the pharmaceutical industry.
The packaging of drugs has been a constant technical challenge throughout history. Suede bags for powder, stoneware and earthenware pots, wooden vases, glass of various shapes and sizes - these packages have evolved over the centuries to meet ever more demanding standards in terms of hygiene and quality. The early years of Laboratoires Chibret were marked by heavy use of flexible metal tubes made from pure tin or lead. In line with his uncle Paul, Henry was indeed an avid proponent of ophthalmic ointments. Based on vaseline, a petroleum jelly invented in 1872, ointments have a longer duration of action than eye drops and are less prone to contamination.
Son of a pharmacist, and himself owner of a pharmacy in Clemont-Ferrand, Henry Chibret was inspired by his uncle Paul to create and produce ophthalmic formulas. His favoured solution was ointment as liquid solutions caused problems relative to molecular stability and contamination. In 1902 he founded the Chibret Laboratories whose development was modest in comparison to his French and foreign competitors as pharmacopoeia had very few active medications being composed mainly of mineral salts and alkaloids. The pharmaceutical industry only developed after the Second World War.
Henry Chibret was friendly with a number of ophthalmologists and had particularly good relations with Albert Bronner during the war as the Faculty of Strasbourg was based temporarily in Clermont-Ferrand. (Albert Bronner from Alsace was arrested by the Gestapo and deported in 1944. Freed in 1945 he became a Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Strasbourg).
Paul Chibret's scientific work is considerable and concerns varied areas of ophthalmology. Among his inventions, the chromatophotoptometer using polarized light. This simple, inexpensive and compact (20cm) instrument used polarized light and obtained 2700 nuances of colour which allowed doctors to diagnose colour blindness. He also strived to promote a measurement method for short sightedness and called it skiascopy.
He invented a simultaneous injection and suction syringe used for cortical mass in the posterior chamber after cataract operations.
Infectious and aseptic problems preoccupied him all throughout his life. He presented a report at the SFO in 1891 concerning bacterial infections of the conjunctiva and a report on trachoma in 1896. He preconised pre and post-operatory precautions to reduce the risk of endophtalmy.
Creative, original and independent with a European spirit, Paul Chibret was an inspiration to the following generations.
The CHIBRET family's connection with ophthalmology started with Paul CHIBRET, a military doctor, at the end of the Second Empire. While serving in the Constantine region of Algeria, he developed an interest in trachoma, an eye disease that would fascinate him all his life. During a military campaign in eastern Kabylie in August 1871, he was struck by bilateral chorioretinitis which left him virtually blind. He was sent back to Europe the following month.
On his return to France, he entrusted his care to Professor Galezowsky and Professor de Wecker in the most important ophthalmological clinics in Paris. In 1875, he returned to his Auvergne roots, his family originated from Cantal (Dienne, Puy-Mary Valley) and opened his ophthalmology consultancy in Clermont-Ferrand.
His clientele developed rapidly without confining him into a repetitive routine. He was exposed to many topics of observation and reflection which his original spirit as a doctor, surgeon, researcher and inventor helped him to bear to fruition.
THE CREATION OF THE FRENCH SOCIETY OF OPHTHALMOLOGY (SFO)
Advances in science dominated the closing decades of the 19th century and a close network of congresses, learned societies and academies emerged in Europe linking the ever-growing number of specialists. Paul Chibret was one of these learned travellers who visited congresses and academies throughout Europe. He carried out operations in Russia and Poland and corresponded abundantly with his fellow ophthalmologists. Undoubtedly, the Chibret family's close relationship with ophthalmologists, both French and foreign, can be traced back to Paul. On this point, as on many others, the story of the Chibret family shows the extraordinary continuity between the founding members of the dynasty and the new generations.
At the Amsterdam Congress in 1879, Doctors Chibret and Martin attempted to create a scientific society. This attempt was unsuccessful but the project evolved a few short years later. In September 1882, Paul Chibret published his new project in the South-Western Ocular magazine. The SFO was formally created on January 29, 1883 in Paris.
He himself was the first president of this new society. The statutes, which are still applied today, stipulate that the Board is to be composed of a President from outside the capital and a General Secretary from Paris. A report is presented during the annual SFO Congress with no restrictions on contributor's nationality (Axenfeld was the first German reporter in 1906).
Paul Chibret reconciled differences between the French and other nationalities, between liberal consultants and professors, between Parisians and those practicing in country towns. He insisted that the SFO be accessible to all, in particular to German ophthalmologists, ostracized since Germany severed links with Alsace Lorraine after the defeat in 1870. He suggested that the French annual congress take place in May, which allowed German ophthalmologists to come to Paris and French ophthalmologists to go to Heidelberg in the summer. Today the Paul Chibret medal is attributed on alternate years by the SFO and the DOG (German Society of Ophthalmology) to celebrate this French-German alliance.