How did you start Lamelle? And, more importantly, why?
In 2006, I was working with an American pharmaceutical company as a CRP (Clinical Research Physician), I was responsible for all clinical trials in the Sub-Saharan territories dealing in women’s health, critical care medicine, and cardiology. I had completed a post-graduate degree at the University of Stellenbosch (on post-menopausal ageing and its effects on connective tissues) and I was consulting with patients specifically dealing with menopausal skin changes.
At this time, I was also working in the pharmaceutical laboratory, developing topical treatments for many of my patients. I couldn’t keep up with the demand for the products I was developing. None of the technology that was locally available could offer what my lab samples were delivering. It was a watershed moment. One of the marketing and sales managers was always interested and supportive of the work I was doing and suggested that he could help me bring my formulations to the South African market. This, of course, is my good friend and colleague, Mr. Tony De Barros. This was the beginning of Lamelle Research Laboratories.
What is exciting you the most about the skincare and skin health industry right now?
As a broad principle, skincare is moving towards the development of target compounds that regulate cellular activity. In the last two decades, skincare has been largely focused on the appearance of the skin surface; smoothness, evenness of colour and wrinkles. Today, study is more focused on cellular pathways that regulate the activity of skin cells and the development of target molecules to influence cell activity and longevity. In other words, keeping healthy skin healthy despite ourselves and the environment is well within our grasp, this is a thrilling time to be alive!
In the past, there has been some industry debate around the term ‘Cosmeceutical’. Do you think the term is useful for describing Lamelle products versus just being classified as a cosmetic? Or is there another term you prefer?
Strictly speaking, the word ‘cosmeceutical’ coined by Dr Richard Fitzpatrick some years ago was intended merely to illustrate the principle that certain cosmetic ingredients could have a pharmaceutical-like’ (alter normal physiological function) effect on the skin. The fact is that even water can alter the physiological function of skin but yet would never be classified as a ‘cosmeceutical’. A cosmetic can improve the appearance of skin (clean, fragrance, colour etc), a pharmaceutical treats or prevents disease. I believe the addition of a third ‘grey area’ definition serves more as a marketing tool than not. Functional cosmetics make no medical claim yet may positively influence skin physiology; this is more the realm of the products we develop at Lamelle Research Laboratories.
We are always hearing about animal testing in the broader cosmetic manufacturing industry, and rightly so, if it’s actually happening in the way most think it is. If we remember correctly, you had a pretty resolute response?
I must point out that since 2013, animal testing OF ANY FORM has been illegal in the traditional western world (of which South Africa is considered) for cosmetic ingredients/products. In other words, it goes without saying that animal testing cannot be done under ANY circumstance including ingredient and finished formulation testing. To state ‘not tested on animals’ is merely stating a legal fact that ALL companies producing cosmetics in the western world have to abide by. Having said that, I can assure you that Lamelle Research Laboratories has never and will never test its ingredients or finished formulations on animals. It is morally reprehensible and we are a law-abiding company.
The last time we saw you, you were still seeing patients and consulting as a General Practitioner at your practice. Are you still practicing today, and why?
My clinical practice is dedicated to clinical trial research. I was trained at the Vienna school of clinical research in my early days as a Clinical Research Physician, and I still conduct all clinical testing according to the WHO Good Clinical Practice (GCP) standards. This data ultimately supports the development of the Lamelle Research Laboratories product line which is constantly in different phases of development.
What are your main motivations and objectives when developing a new skincare product? Are you looking for gaps in the market, at what competitors are doing, or, is it a case of finding solutions to everyday skin health problems that you see?
New research directions, as well as personal frustrations with unresolved concerns, are my biggest motivators. Very often the issues start close to home with unresolved challenges suffered by family and friends that lead me to aggressively seek out suitable answers or solutions. Many of the products that I have developed don’t make it to the market; they remain quietly in the background helping those who originally needed the help.
The Clarity range, in particular, has built up such a loyal fan-base and following. What are some of the things that set it apart (without giving away any secrets)?
Acne vulgaris is the chronic manifestation of four key triggers; inflammation, infection, seborrhoea, irregular follicular desquamation. The truth is that with very few (risky) treatments can address ALL FOUR of these triggers are the same time. Logic suggests that a safe, gentle/tolerable solution that could address all of these triggers at the same time would make a significant difference to the disease outcome. Clarity is our offering to address these four elements.
Do you believe South Africans have unique skincare needs?
Not specifically no. South Africans are predominantly an outdoor society, and as such, suffer a more rapid rate of extrinsic (environmental) ageing than perhaps the Swedes for example. South Africans may need additional antioxidants and/or photo-protection than people living in the northern hemisphere, however, the approach to good skincare/health remains fairly consistent globally. The fact remains that melanin content is a key determinant of the extent of UVR damage and Caucasians are more adversely affected. This would be equally relevant in Australia or even South America.
You obviously spend a lot of your time researching cutting-edge ingredients like enzymes that can repair DNA-damage which is pretty mind-blowing. What skincare technology has excited you the most in the past few years, or is that the one?
So many to choose from!!! I am fascinated by autophagy activation and the downregulation of senescence (ageing) genes. Essentially, autophagy is the process whereby a cell will remove itself from an environment when it has been irreversibly damaged rather than remain and perform ‘abnormal’ functions. If we could modulate autophagy then we could virtually eliminate old damaged cells and exchange them for new.
Certain genes (cell programmes) are activated when a cell gets older, many of these gene activations maybe switch off or modulated to change the rate at which our cells age. Fascinating!!
To date, what has been your proudest Lamelle ‘moment’?
When I hear success stories from the people who we work so hard to help. It never gets old. These, are without question my proudest ‘moments’.
For those who don’t believe a South African company can compete with international manufacturers in terms of product efficacy and standards – what do you have to say?
Science is a global language. The world has become infinitely smaller with the internet and cellular mobile technology. A meeting on the other side of the globe can happen without as much as a delay while even sitting in your car. There are no limits to how humans can interact and cooperate on a topic that is within our boundaries. With the correct motivation and drive virtually all obstacles can be overcome. David did defeat Goliath.
Give us the low-down on clinical trials. How important are they to you? What are some of the challenges of getting your final product formulations through an independent one?
Clinical trials are conducted along the entire development process and ultimately provide the evidence of concept. Lamelle Research Laboratories is involved in clinical trials with many different role players who each have their own respective strengths from across the globe. This is how we ultimately arrive at the key molecules that we utilise in our final products. Once we have the final active ingredient that we have developed with our partners, we move to the last phase of clinical trial which includes toxicology studies, tolerance, stability, aesthetics such that our products all meet global safety standards. The cost of these clinical trials is high but essential.
Lastly, where to next for Lamelle?
Lamelle Research Laboratories will remain focused on continuous development of more effective answers to skin concerns that people have.