Two exceptional men
Dr Camille Bru, a visionary
The only son of a family from the French department of Lot-et-Garonne, Camille Bru set up as a general practitioner in Agen in the early 1920s. A man with a strong personality, who was very creative, he showed a keen interest in the famous Concours Lépine, a competition for new inventions created in 1901. Camille Bru was to be remembered for the contributions he made to his time.
As a radiologist he invented a mobile system enabling him to X-ray patients at their bedside. To overcome the lack of electricity at remote farms, a voltmeter was connected to the engine of Dr Bru’s car; the driver would press the accelerator until the correct voltage was obtained, then blow the horn to indicate that X-raying could begin.
In 1935, having discovered through X-rays that fizzy drinks accelerated the movement of the digestive tract, Dr Camille Bru had the idea of developing the first effervescent drug for the treatment of stomach upset. In the evening, after doing his rounds as an itinerant radiographer, he would work on finding the optimal dosage of Normogastryl in his garage in Agen, With the aim of producing and marketing the drug, he founded that same year the laboratories of the Union Pharmaceutique des Sciences Appliquées (UPSA), which he was to direct for more than twenty years.
Dr Camille Bru also proved to have a flair for marketing and advertising, successfully using such items as blotters, nail brushes and clover-shaped packaging to bring his product to the notice of pharmacists and physicians. Unfortunately, his extraordinary career was cut short when he died prematurely in 1958.
Camille Bru, an ingenious, brave, intelligent and pioneering man, was to be remembered throughout the development of Laboratoires UPSA.
Dr Camille Bru and his wife
Dr Jean Bru, a builder
Jean Bru, the only son of Camille and Rachel Bru, considered training to become an agricultural engineer but, on his father’s advice, he studied medicine instead and joined the family firm. Although father and son were very close, their professional collaboration was not easy and it did not last very long: Jean Bru resumed his studies to become a radiologist.
On the death of Camille Bru in 1958, Jean Bru became head of the firm, and he was to turn out to be an inspired industrialist, whose professionalism was recognised by both his employees and his partners.
More artistic than his father, he inherited the latter’s entrepreneurial spirit and determination in putting his ideas into effect and never giving up. “The future is there for the taking, especially in the pharmaceutical industry, since research opens up new horizons for us and nothing is ever at an end.” His curiosity, pragmatism and tenacity were to contribute to the firm’s continued success.
He applied his creativity first of all to his great passion, research – to which the firm was to devote as much as 20% of its turnover in France.
Realising that effervescence could be used to improve the effectiveness of certain drugs, Dr Jean Bru combined it first of all with aspirin, in 1960, then with paracetamol ten years later (Efferalgan). He launched straight away into mass production. That stroke of genius, and his perfect mastery of production, gave the firm a decisive lead: UPSA was revitalised, becoming a modern industrial company set to conquer international markets.
In the early 1980s, 35% of all boxes of analgesics sold in France came from the UPSA plants. The Group exported 45% of its production to 75 countries worldwide. Yet far from seeing himself as a pharmaceutical magnate, Dr Jean Bru remained a pragmatic dreamer, a man who was deeply human: he was constantly improving the working conditions of his staff, furthering relations between the pharmaceutical industry and public administrations, developing research and working to alleviate pain.
In 1980, he married Dr Nicole Magniez, who was then the Group’s director of research. They shared a passion for travel – loving Venice in particular – and for golf and music. Together, in 1987, they supported the creation of Le Concert Spirituel, initiated by Hervé Niquet. Having no offspring themselves, they wished to do something to help underprivileged children. Despite Dr Jean Bru’s sudden death in 1989, Nicole Bru carried the project through.
Nothing has any meaning if it is not at the service of HumanityMan and his environment are at the heart of all the actions supported by the Fondation Bru. In very different fields, notably education and research, culture and heritage, the foundation supports ambitious pioneering projects that are likely to further significantly the cause they serve.
In the twentieth century, the history of the Bru family was closely linked to the meteoric rise of the pharmaceutical company it had created and developed with enthusiasm and success for 60 years.
“What counts in life is one’s capacity to influence the course of things!” That is the belief of Nicole Bru, doctor, researcher and businesswoman.