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When Beauty Meets Biotech

By: Marie Alice Dibon
Posted: September 3, 2009, from the September 2009 issue of GCI Magazine.

page 4 of 6

You have to find those teams that no one else has been able to find before you, or been able to work with before you. Otherwise, the technology is soon picked up by a smart supplier and everyone has access to it. And that is where another challenge lies. Many biotechs haven’t thought of licensing to beauty. Sometimes because it is just not something that comes to mind naturally to researchers focusing on disease all day long, just like DBV’s initial team. In other cases, a smart business developer thinks about it but doesn’t really know how to approach the beauty industry and know what to expect.

Such Was the Case ...

When I began to work with Oculus Innovative Sciences—a biopharmaceutical company that develops, manufactures and markets a family of products intended to help prevent and treat infections in chronic and acute wounds—it seemed clear that there were opportunities in personal care. An antibacterial product with anti-inflammatory properties doesn’t come along everyday. When I contacted them, the answer was yes, they figured there might be some business development opportunities in the personal care arena, but the company really didn’t know how to go about transferring technologies. Yet, they had a lot of good ideas. They just needed a road map and to understand perfectly where the potential of their technology was, as well as its limitations.

Things such as compatibility with other ingredients didn’t seem to be a big deal to them, as the product was active, non-toxic, tested on more than a million patient wounds—and it seemed to be all that mattered. Fragrancing was not something that really seemed relevant either.

However, for the cosmetic formulation chemist, the ingredient should be turnkey and be able to be fragranced. So we began work on this, and my job, in part, was to get the skin care teams to realize how efficient and safe the product is, but that it may also require some concessions on their part to formulate with it. Again, there was a need to meet halfway—but, as with other avenues of innovation, those who know how to think outside the box reap the benefits and leave those with “me-too strategies” behind.

And there are biotech companies that do come to conclusion to partner within the beauty industry on their own, because, as is often the case, they realize that they may not be able to run the distance all the way to drug approval without another source of income to help in the process—a direct outcome of the fact that it has become increasingly difficult for biotechs to find financing during the past 10 years. For others, leveraging existing assets with another industry just makes good sense. That is the strategy taken by LibraGen, which applies functional genomic technologies in combination with industrial expertise to develop new bioprocesses for the discovery of novel bioactives.