The entrepreneurial journey of the Dompé family in the pharmaceutical business begins with Onorato Dompé. After having studied pharmaceutical chemistry at the Royal University in Turin, he moves to Milan and opens a production lab, the Dompé-Adami.
The success of the Dompé-Adami lab enables Onorato Dompé to acquire one of the oldest pharmacies in Milan, the Farmacia Centrale, in Piazza della Scala. Located just a stone’s throw away from the famous opera house, the pharmacy becomes a meeting place for the finest composers of the time, such as Verdi and Puccini. His father Gian Antonio, who was a pharmaceutical chemistry expert, helps him run the business.
1902 - 1908
Onorato Dompé acquires three other pharmacies in Palermo, Milan and Ponte Chiasso (Switzerland), and so establishes the Farmacie Inglesi Dompé chain. A forward thinker from the very beginning, he produces drugs according to the innovative British school. He also moves his fast-growing production lab to a more strategic area of Milan, close to the city’s main hospital, la Ca’ Granda (today’s Policlinico).
Onorato Dompé sells his four pharmacies to focus on production and transfers his Milanese laboratory to a larger facility, in via San Martino 12.
Franco Dompé, the son of Onorato, also chooses to follow in his father’s footsteps and obtains a degree in chemistry and pharmacy at the University of Pavia. A great sportsman since childhood, he falls in love with bobsledding during a trip to Cortina d’Ampezzo. This winter sport, which at the time was only popular in Northern Europe, will shortly after play a significant role in Franco’s entrepreneurial choices.
Franco crashes violently during a bobsled training. Over the course of the following two years, he undergoes multiple surgeries and, most importantly, he defines his career goal: to establish a company with the mission of supporting the doctors’ work and aiding patients’ recovery during convalescence.
Despite the outbreak of World War Two, Franco’s strong entrepreneurial spirit leads him to establish, at 29 years old, his own production lab, Dompé farmaceutici. In the early days of his company, Franco relies significantly on the knowledge and expertise of his father Onorato: he will develop in fact the first drugs based on Dompé-Adami’s preparations. This is what happens with the anti-cough medicine Creosotina. Launched by Onorato, this product will be later perfected by Franco, evolving into Guaiacalcium, today’s Fluifort. The medication quickly becomes the Dompé farmaceutici’s flagship product, and many other household drugs including Artrosil and Tribenzoica, soon follow.
1943 - 1944
Onorato’s and Franco’s businesses struggle to survive during war. In particular, Onorato’s production plant is the hardest hit: it not only endures damage from the British Royal Air Force’s bombing offensive in August 1943, but it also loses several critical resources in May 1944, when the German army seizes many of its materials.
The 35-year-old Franco Dompé provides funding for the reconstruction of his father’s building in via San Martino 12 in Milan and decides to move his own business there. Dompé farmaceutici’s headquarters are still located within this very building today.
Franco Dompé develops an effective communication strategy to enhance the company's brand awareness. This includes the launch of Bellezza d’Italia, a leisure magazine addressed to doctors aiming at entertaining them during their spare time, as well as getting them to know Dompé’s products through powerful advertisements. These were often signed by the magazine’s art director, the successful designer Franco Grignani.
Dompé farmaceutici sponsors the 55° edition of the Cimento Invernale, a winter swimming race taking place in the bitter cold waters of the Naviglio canal in Milan. The company warms up the athletes by offering them the cough syrup Guaiacalcium.
Dompé farmaceutici’s newly renovated 15,000 meter square headquarters open its doors on January 4, 1951, following five years of reconstruction work. Esteemed scientific leaders attend the opening ceremony, including Giulio Natta, Franco’s former university professor and Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry in 1963. Thanks to investments in cutting-edge machinery, the company starts producing medicines in vials at an industrial scale. Dompé farmaceutici enters a new era of growth and productivity and focuses on the treatment of respiratory infections. Patents did not exist back then, and while other companies are copying drugs, Franco’s business focuses instead on investing in pioneering research and innovation. During this decade, the company develops and launches two new drugs - Cardioritmon and Bioritmon - and comes up with two new ways - intravenous and intramuscular- to administer the anti-cough drug Guaiacalcium.
With the VII Winter Olympic Games taking place in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Franco decides to sponsor the event by providing to the athletes the essential medication. This is transported thanks to 28 branded vans. The sponsorship will strongly impact the company’s communication strategy: from the Cortina Olympic Games onwards, sport will play a leading role in Dompé’s advertising campaigns.
Franco Dompé launches his tenth product: pi-Acca 4, an antispasmodic to treat abdominal pain.
Dompé farmaceutici makes its big screen debut in the Oscar-winning movie by Vittorio De Sica, Ieri, Oggi, Domani. In an unforgettable sequence, the actress Sophia Loren tries to administer Guaiacalcium cough syrup to one of her children.
Franco’s son, Sergio Dompé, joins the company and defines a bold new business strategy: increase the company’s investment in research, focus on innovation, and build partnerships with key international players.