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MBA Entrepreneurs: Here’s How I Broke Into BioTech With An MBA At EMLYON

Francois Quemeneur wants to change the way we look at cells

Thu Oct 6 2016

Francois Quemeneur is bringing scientific research to life with an MBA.

For almost a decade, Francois led research projects related to cosmetics, life sciences and healthcare. A physicist with a doctorate degree, he sought a new dimension to his career.

And, in 2014, he took a step back from science and broke into the world of business with an MBA at France’s EMLYON Business School.

There, he specialized in marketing, strategy and innovation management. He worked on a nine-month consulting project instead of a written dissertation, strategizing for an energy management solutions firm.

And, right after graduation, he co-founded Cytoskeleton Diagnostics, or CytoDiag. The biotech startup is looking for a new way to understand living systems, to deconstruct cells, improve research and development efficiency and drive the discovery of new drugs. Still in development phase, Francois aims to launch the business this time next year.

As an EMLYON MBA grad, he’s well placed to do so. Lyon is a biotech startup hub and entrepreneurship is in the DNA of the school.

How did the idea to start CytoDiag come about?

Post-doctorate, my associate and I decided to switch from academic research and use technology to help the pharma industry develop next-generation medicine.

At the moment, you use small animals or cell structure to understand how living systems work. The problem is, to really understand how cells function, it’s easier to reconstruct them in test tubes and evaluate the constituents involved.

It’s like a construction project. You need to follow a blueprint. If some of the bricks aren’t right, then you won’t get an effective construction at the end. So the idea is not to study all the bricks at the same time, but to deconstruct the whole and to evaluate the effects of each of these bricks.

During my MBA, we won a startup competition in the Auvergne region, access to an incubator and financial help.

What do you hope to achieve?

To provide a new understanding of living systems, and to improve the selection of drugs.

Efficiency is a huge problem in the pharma industry. At the start of the research and development process you start with 10,000 molecules, and you’re lucky if you can validate one which can arrive at patient level.

The probability of success is really limited. And the idea of CytoDiag is to increase that probability, and increase the detection of the right components at the start of the process.

Why did you decide to pursue an MBA at EMLYON?

For people from scientific background, an MBA is a great opportunity. EMLYON offered specialization by industry. For me, it was interesting to take up classic business topics, but also with a few classes focused on life sciences and new venture, which helped me make the transition into my startup project.

I also wanted to work in a consulting team on a real project. I’d done a masters, a PhD, and I’d written publications; I wasn’t interested in a final project dissertation. EMLYON’s leadership project was a good opportunity for me to apply my skills and new knowledge on a real case.

How have you profited from your MBA experience?

I developed an entrepreneurial mindset and a solid foundation in different aspects of business.

The MBA has helped me to identify interesting business opportunities and make the transition to a high-level manager in a startup. It’s helped me to take a more complete view of my project and all the elements I have to consider; from the investment processes, to the stakeholders and the competition.

Plus, EMLYON has a small cohort size with high diversity. We were in a group of 35 students of over 20 nationalities. We worked on many different projects together, managing international teams. So we all improved our leadership and our management skills.

What makes Lyon an attractive location for biotech entrepreneurs?

A combination of innovative public organizations, a good network of business schools, and a lot of biotech and big pharma firms, means there are a lot of opportunities to develop, and be helped in developing, your own projects in Lyon.

Through the EMLYON MBA network, you have access to executives in the industry. You have the ecosystem in Lyon and, at the same time, you can quickly get to Paris or London. Plus, it’s a really nice place to live; close to the French Alps and the Mediterranean.