Obesity affects more than 8.5 million French people according to Haute Autorité de Santé. A number that is rising and relates to the entire world population. Six years of research were required to develop the Allurion gastric balloon, a unique product that helps fight obesity and overweight. Benoit Chardon, International Director of Allurion, answers our questions.
How did you join Allurion?
I joined a teamAllureon 5 years ago, after twenty years spent in plastic surgery. In particular, I created the Filorga brand in 2000, drugstore cosmetics inspired by aesthetic medicine, bought by Colgate for 1.5 billion. Subsequently, I managed the international development of the leading brand of cryolipolysis – CoolScupting – which was acquired by Allergan (Botox) for $2.5 billion. When I met the co-founders of Allurion, from Harvard Medical School, I immediately saw the huge potential of their discovery: It would be the equivalent of Botox for weight loss! Their Allurion program is completely innovative: it delivers effective, fast, and lasting results, without resorting to surgery, anesthesia, or medication. Allurion was established in 2009, and for the past 5 years, the group has registered 100% growth every year, with 300 employees around the world.
The market for combating obesity is huge because two-thirds of the world’s population suffers from it. However, few effective solutions exist. Diets are particularly restrictive, various and varied applications give little results, and bariatric surgery is scary! Only 2% of obese patients resort to it because the consequences can be serious. General anesthesia can be dangerous for an obese patient, and comorbidities are as numerous as breathing difficulties. Weight loss drugs must be taken for life to avoid regaining lost weight… Allurion really has no competition that achieves this kind of results, in such a quick and permanent way, through a painless treatment of safety and simplicity for the patient.
How does the Allurion gastric balloon work?
The balloon makes it possible to fill the part of the stomach of the patient who feels full and thus reduce his meals. The medical device also slows digestion making it possible to increase weight loss. The procedure to put the device in place is quick and painless and does not require surgery or anesthesia. It takes about fifteen minutes, under the supervision of a doctor in one of our sixty partner clinics in France. The patient swallows a capsule, the caregiver checks by radio that it is correctly placed in the stomach, fills it with a liquid similar to physiological saline using a catheter and that’s it! Equipped with a very thin membrane, the balloon Allureon It is well tolerated by the stomach and is eliminated naturally 16 weeks after ingestion.
And the results are particularly convincing…
Yes, our patients lose an average of 15% of their total starting weight in just 16 weeks. Moreover, one month after the implementation ball AllureonAnd Patients are already achieving an average of 50% of their weight loss goal. They are strictly followed up for 6 months to a year by a medical team (doctor, nutritionist, trainer who helps them resume good eating habits and physical habits. We also offer digital tools to support patients: a scale and a watch connected to an app that the team can refer to to track their progress and thus correct the program if weight loss is not successful.
According to the Haute Autorité de Santé, 8.5 million French people are obese, a figure that has increased by 13% since 2012. Is this a real public health problem?
Yes, it cannot be denied. We all know the comorbidities associated with obesity: heart failure, diabetes, joint problems, and so on. The Covid-19 pandemic has shown this well, because many patients admitted to intensive care were also overweight. Without forgetting depression and anxiety disorders, especially among the youngest, it is essential to tackle this problem head on. And our solution, due to its simplicity and efficiency, responds perfectly to this.
Today, Allurion is developing software based on artificial intelligence, capable of predicting after 21 days, if the gastric balloon placement is working, and if not, why. This is a big step forward! At the end of last year we also partnered with Professor Robert S. Langer, co-founder of Moderna, who joins our scientific committee with a project that should see the light in 5 years, which consists of implanting probes into gastric balloons. This will allow us to automatically know everything our patients eat and thus measure the number of calories and so on.
Finally, the next IPO, which is scheduled for the first half of this year, will bring us with a value of $500 million, for an expected fundraising of $87 million. Almost 90% of this amount should be allocated to informing the general public (the advertising budget will be tripled in 2023), but also to research and development, to continue to address this public health problem.
Within 5 years, more than 100,000 patients have been treated worldwide and this is only a small part of the population that can be affected. The World Health Organization estimates that 59% of the European population is overweight or obese. And these are all the people we want to help. Allurion is about to become the equivalent of Botox for weight loss: You better watch out for the extra pounds, their days are numbered!