Nicolas Hollis, CEO of United Allergy Labs, says there is a large, untapped market for treating people suffering from seasonal allergies. A company in San Antonio is seeking to provide long‐lasting treatment for seasonal and perennial allergy sufferers.
San Antonio Business Journal
July 1, 2011
By Mike W. Thomas
Millions of Americans rely on over‐the‐counter antihistamines and steroid‐based drugs to give them
temporary relief from allergy symptoms. In 2010, Americans spent $17.5 billion on such treatments
while also losing more than 6 million days of work and making 16 million visits to the doctor.
Those are the figures that convinced a group of San Antonio entrepreneurs to launch United Allergy Labs in 2009. The company contracts with primary care physicians to set up allergy labs in their offices where patients can be tested and provided with the proper immunotherapy drugs to give more long‐lasting relief to these allergies.
Nicolas Hollis, CEO of United Allergy Labs (UAL), says the company is filling a need that was not being
met by the small number of allergists and immunologists in the medical community.
“This small specialist group is expected to decrease in size ... and be unable to meet the demand for
their services,” Hollis says. By allowing non‐allergist physicians to safely administer allergy testing and
immunotherapy treatment, UAL can expand access to this treatment for allergy sufferers, which number
more than 60 million across the U.S.
UAL came about as the result of the combination of three related allergy companies: UAL Texas, UAL
Oklahoma and UAL Georgia. Hollis says the new company was funded out of the cash flow of the
existing companies and has been cash‐flow positive ever since. Last year, the company had about $11
million in revenues and is on track to make $30 million this year.
“This past quarter we increased the number of labs by 50 percent and we should grow by 300 percent
this year,” Hollis says. UAL, which currently operates 132 labs in 11 states, recently hired its 250th
employee, most of whom work in the field. About 40 are based at the company’s headquarters in San
UAL trains and certifies its clinical staff and provides them with lab equipment and supplies. The
company contracts with the doctors (general practitioners) and does not take money directly from the
patients. Instead, the patients pay the doctor for the services who then pays a fee to the clinic based on
the services provided.
Hollis says UAL currently has an arrangement with University of the Incarnate Word to provide the
necessary training courses.
“We exceed federal requirements in every case,” he says. “A lot of our staffers have master’s degrees or nursing degrees.”
The staff conducts scratch testing to determine what, if any, things a patient is allergic to. The test,
which they say is painless, involves making a number of small punctures on the skin to test a patient’s
reaction to as many as 50 different allergens. If the patient is found to be allergic to something like cat
hair or the feathers in their pillow, then the problem can be resolved quickly by removing the source
from the home.
However, if they are allergic to something like mold or pollen in the air, or if they do not want to get rid
of a pet, then the best option is sometimes immunotherapy, which requires regular shots administered
at the lab.
Dr. Bernice Gonzalez, a physician with the Vital Life Wellness Center at 2520 Broadway, has used United Allergy Labs services for two years and says it has been beneficial for both her practice and her patients.
“Here in San Antonio, we have some of the worst allergy problems in the United States,” she says. “(UAL) provides us with a high quality service and excellent safety protocols. It has been very popular
with our patients.”
Gonzalez says she has had excellent feedback from her patients who say the allergy treatments have
allowed them to be more active, with fewer trips to the ER and less missed time at work.
The UAL labs will not treat patients with life‐threatening allergies such as food allergies.
The requirements for setting up a lab in a physician’s office are pretty basic. They need a small room
with a sink, a sterile counter and a refrigerator to store materials.
The doctors are also provided with a rigorous training course to get them up to speed on the latest
research into immunology and allergy treatment. There are currently six labs in San Antonio and Hollis
says they could have as many 50 or 60 more for a city the size of San Antonio.
“We tend to look at multi‐physician practices with three or four providers first to make sure there is
enough patient flow to support a lab,” Hollis says.
The treatment regimens that UAL uses are all approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and
are covered by Medicare, Medicaid and most insurance companies, Hollis says.
Hollis helped to found UAL in 2009 with James Strader, a practicing chiropractor. Hollis had previously
served on the board of the San Antonio River Foundation. Before that, he was an angel investor with the White Hat Network and was a co‐founder and principal in the computer security firm SecureInfo Corp.
A native of New Zealand, Hollis spent 16 years in the international banking industry before moving to
San Antonio in 1994 to raise his kids and be near his wife’s family. He met Strader while operating the
White Hat Network and then got a call from his friend in August 2009 asking if he would like to help run
a new business.
“Strader is our ideas guy, but he wanted someone else to help run the company,” Hollis says.