In Gamsen (canton of Valais), Valsynthèse‘s laboratories pulse with decades of chemical innovation. Founded in 1983, this “fine chemistry” division of the Société Suisse des Explosifs (SSE) holds a unique legacy of transitioning from explosive nitroglycerine for tunneling mountains to its pharmaceutical applications. As Max Lauwiner, the General Manager of Valsynthèse explained, nitroglycerine’s expansive properties that were once used to dynamite the Simplon railway tunnel, now aid in creating treatments for cardiovascular ailments.
Celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2023, Valsytnhèse has remained unwavering in its mission.
Leveraging SSE’s expertise in handling, producing, and storing explosive materials, Valsynthèse mirrored this knowledge into “at-risk” chemistry. The moniker originates from the high-energy value of the chemical reactions involved, which can escalate in temperature, necessitating a special skill set for manipulation.
With its 27 reactors, the company annually manufactures 1000 tons of fine chemicals, catering to around fifty clients in the pharmaceutical, agricultural, and technological sectors worldwide. One such acclaimed contribution is the betaine citrate, a remedy for digestive disorders, which has seen 4 billion doses produced at Gamsen since 1983. Gilles de Preux, the General Manager of the SSE group, has highlighted this drug’s integration into Valsynthèse’s DNA, which emerged from a collaboration with the French pharmaceutical laboratory UPSA, amid concerns of nationalization after François Mitterrand’s rise to power.
From Gamsen to global: Valsynthèse’s evolution and vision for the future
Valsynthèse’s journey of diversification has been marked with steadfast growth. With all operations concentrated in Gamsen and a workforce of 75, the company has witnessed a sales growth of 33% in 2022, marking its best fiscal performance in the past decade. Since 2019, the SSE group has pumped in over CHF 15 million, primarily in human resources and new equipment. One significant stride was a partnership with DSM-Firmenich last year on Bovaer, an additive aimed at curbing cattle methane emissions by at least 30%, which translates into saving 66,000 tons of CO2 emissions since its launch. De Preux anticipates this collaboration’s economic windfall to hover around “several tens of millions of francs” for Valsynthèse in the medium term, underpinning further hires in 2024.
Yet, the company’s proximity to the giant Lonza has led to stiff employment market competition. To differentiate itself, Valsynthèse’s leadership accentuates its familial company philosophy, offering significant work flexibility. This modest size allows employees holistic involvement in projects, an experience often missing in larger conglomerates.
On the horizon, Valsynthèse has a suite of new, confidential products in the pipeline.
De Preux predicts that by the next three to five years, Valsynthèse’s contribution to SSE’s revenue (which stood at 15% of SSE’s 170 million in 2022) is slated to surpass 20%.
Tracing back, the SSE was born in 1894 in Gamsen, initially set up to support the Simplon railway tunnel construction. Since then, from being a Valais-based company, it has expanded into a European group, boasting over 750 employees across eight countries.
Source : GGBA