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New Paradigms

By: Steve Herman
Posted: January 31, 2012, from the January 2012 issue of GCI Magazine.

“If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got.” —Albert Einstein

Formulating at the bench level hasn’t changed much in the past 60 years—the theory of emulsions as used by the average chemist, for example, hasn’t progressed far beyond the principles found in a paper published in 1949. Chemists modify tried-and-true formulas or revert to tedious trial-and-error experiments to create (hopefully) stable and efficacious products. Familiar materials are used in customary ways; new ingredients are approached with extreme caution, because there is always the possibility of an unexpected or unwanted interaction with other materials.

However, there are new ways of doing things that can change R&D habits and product development in fundamental ways. This column has looked at several innovations in the past, and here we’ll put a few approaches together to provide a broad look at product creation at the cutting edge. Not every method is good for every product type, but a tool box of new ideas can surely jump start a sleepy development program. Innovation, often a risky proposition, can have a high likelihood of success if the underlying ideas are sound.

Considering New Materials; Using Them Efficiently

A new active material has been developed—from stem cells. Marie Alice Dibon’s article The Role of Stem Cells in Beauty—Today and Tomorrow, published by GCI in September 2011, serves as a starting point to understand the contemporary possibilities of these materials. The first step is to establish the efficacy of the new active. Here, genomics makes the process quick and relatively economical. A DNA microarray (gene chip) or polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) are two common approaches to establishing the mechanisms of action at a fundamental biological level.1 This takes the place of expensive clinical trials and shows exactly how the material accomplishes its mission.

Now the compatibility of the new material must be determined. We have previously looked at high throughput in this column space.2 Pioneered by Bob Lochhead, it is like trial-and-error on steroids. Robotic devices can make hundreds of samples a day, creating mixtures that may or may not be compatible. Some resultant properties, such as turbidity or tackiness, can be evaluated automatically. A computer is programmed to digest the information, and a phase diagram is produced. The phase diagram identifies good and bad areas relating to material interactions. Work on the bench is still necessary, but lab time is dramatically reduced.