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When Beauty Meets Biotech

By: Marie Alice Dibon
Posted: September 3, 2009, from the September 2009 issue of GCI Magazine.
  • What the beauty industry and its consumers gain is a higher level of science in the products. This is a definite raising of the bar in terms of efficacy.
  • The way both industries deal with each other is in its infancy, yet, there is no question that the future of the beauty industry lies, at least in part, with biotech.
  • As with any innovation strategy, one cannot expect the status quo to be enough or to even be a viable option. Survival is at stake.

When, after working 10 years on the technical side of skin care, I entered the world of biotech, I never thought that I would at some point find enough convergence between these fields to actually make merging the two a viable business.

At the time, biotech was primarily an entrepreneurial industry, focusing on the creation of potent cancer drugs, for example. Of course, there were companies making inroads—such as Genentech, Amgen and Gilead, which were beginning to make headlines as early as 2000—but the industry as a whole was not yet profitable. It would take six or seven more years for this to happen.

But it seemed companies everywhere were busy trying to persuade investors to inject a few million dollars into a new idea or a budding company. The dollar amounts were quite staggering, too, but raising more than $100 million in one fundraising effort was not considered exceptional.

Of course the beauty industry, with its short product lifespans and seemingly low price points, didn’t appear to be an industry likely to gain from these investments—with doubts that the profit margins would recompense. Even for the small investors, the future seemed bright within other sectors, and with the big firms leading the way, why bother with anything else—like beauty?