Today’s “Skintifique keywords” post will focus on “Science”. In this series of posts, we comment on a number of keywords that we use at Skintifique to drive or guide our actions and decisions. As a young laboratory aiming to bring real health benefits to real people, in a world that is evolving fast, constantly offering new opportunities to do things in new ways, these words have special significance for us.
As mentioned in a previous post, interpretations of these keywords may come in various shades, and individual and group judgment are important and may mature over time. So feel free to react and join the conversation.
Last week, we talked about Skintifique dedication to innovation for real people, by real people. This week, let’s spend some time on Science
Skintifique is rooted in science. Its founders and team members are convinced that science, and its cousin, technology, are infinite sources of inspiration, capabilities, and methods that allow to improve life, well-being and health (of course, science and technology may also create risks, but we will rather focus in this post on the positive opportunities they create). Skintifique founders and first team members were all scientists, practicing or trained in some of the world’s best medical or scientific institutions in the USA and in Europe: Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Howard Hughes Medical Institute, McGill University, Chalmers University, Pierre et Marie Curie University, Ecole Polytechnique, Ecole Normale Supérieure… Some of them have been close collaborators to some of the most well-known scientists in the world, including laureates of the Nobel Price and other prestigious recognitions. Even today, over 2/3 people working at Skintifique have PhDs or equivalent scientific or medical degrees, making Skintifique one of the world’s most scientifically rooted laboratory.
So what does this mean ?
Science as a source of inspiration
A great part of scientific work is about discovering things that have not been described before, or finding how things work. As a result, great science brings new insights and is often (but unfortunately not always, that is another story) practiced by people who enjoy developing new insights, connecting the dots, or imagining new possibilities. At Skintifique, we strive to do just this : imagining new possibilities to invent, develop and bring products that may improve the health of people, based on new insights from science. And we strive at “connecting the dots” : some of the products that we develop are based, or rather inspired by how nature works, or observations and discoveries from fields that have nothing to do with dermatology or ophthalmology ; this is called cross-fertilization.
An aspect of this approach has been described by Jeff Karp, one of Skintifique’s founders, in a recent TedMed presentation entitled Harnessing Nature’s Secrets.
Another aspect is illustrated by the fact that most of our scientists (and most of our team members more broadly) are adepts of cross-fertilization across scientific and technology fields, as they themselves have a broad set of experience, acquired in different fields, different countries, different languages : the best science happens at the interfaces and one needs to be able to connect across different fields and people to do the best science.
So yes, we definitely use science as a source of inspiration.
Science as a way to do new things
Science, and technology are also ways to learn and to do new things, or to do things better. So of course, we constantly strive to develop and grow our scientific and technology knowledge and capabilities. And often times, we cannot even predict, how we will use these capabilities.
Here are a few illustrations :
- Because we wanted our products to be among the safest in the world, we decided that we would only use ingredients that are well known, and use the minimum number of them. Of course, we also wanted our products to bring new benefits, such as protecting the skin against common allergens, such as nickel and other metals, or providing superior moisturizing and skin soothing. So how could it be possible to do new things with common ingredients ? Well, science is what allows to address this type of apparent impossible challenges. In short, we had to come up with new ways to do skincare products : so we invented and developed new materials, based on common, safe ingredients, and these materials have the new properties we were seeking. It is like doing the Eiffel Tower or the Bay Bridge, or a new type of food : you use common ingredients (metals for the Eiffel Tower or Bay Bridge, or milk, eggs and flour for the food), but the material you create is totally new and has properties, or taste when speaking about food, that are different from the individual ingredients. Material sciences are what allows us to do such products, with novel properties and functions
- Another illustration : when we started to develop the world’s first skincare products that protect the skin from Nickel and other metals, to which around 10% of the world’s population are allergic, we relied on a promising technology that had been found in a laboratory to ‘work’ ; in fact, it had even allowed the scientists to publish an article in Nature, one of the world’s most renowned science journal. The technology was based on the brilliant idea that Nickel could be captured at the surface of the skin and prevented from penetrating it, thereby protecting the skin from the allergic reaction. But we quickly found that, in real life, ie when used in products that were compatible with use on the human skin, the technology did not work. So we needed to develop additional technologies to prevent the Nickel and other metals from penetrating the skin. And, to be frank, we tested many different technologies until we found the combination that we use today in the Protective Cream HPS and in the Moisturizing Lotion HP.
- In yet another illustration, Skintifique scientists early on developed a technology that allows to control the delivery of active ingredients to the body. This technology was initially invented and is currently being used, to develop better medicines for a variety of diseases in dermatology, ophthalmology, and others. We also found out that it could be used in skincare and cosmetic products, to enhance the efficacy of moisturizing and skin soothing. This was really an unexpected finding. And it led us to develop the Hydrating Gel Plus HS, which displays exceptional moisturizing and skin soothing efficacy while being extremely safe as it contains only 8, well known, ingredients. And this product is now providing real benefits to people with normal but dry skin, to people with skin diseases such as eczema, psoriasis, and even rare and severe ones such as ichthyosis and epidermolysis bullosa.
So yes, definitely, top science is what allows us to invent and develop new products, that have new properties and functions.
Science as a method
Science also provides us with a method. Here are some characteristics :
- Hypothesis and rigorous fact base : scientific progress usually happens when an observation, often made by chance or serendipity, is turned into a hypothesis, and when this hypothesis is then rigorously assessed against facts. The later can be gathered from public knowledge, or generated purposefully in laboratories or otherwise. At Skintifique, we strive to constantly generate new hypothesis and also constantly and rigorously assess these against facts ; and we have a very clear view and are very transparent about what is a hypothesis, what is a fact and what is the level of confidence in any claim we make
- Observing and learning from the real world: science is rooted in observation and learning from the real world. And for us, the world, the real world and real people, are a constant source of new insights, inspiration, and challenges to overcome. This is why we strive to learn from people who share their health concerns, people who share feedbacks about our products, and how they use them, and all other observations that may be relevant to develop novel products. For us, science almost always starts with observing and trying to understand the real world and constant learning from it. And this means openness, curiosity, and willingness to constantly challenge one’s own beliefs.
- Humility and resilience : as mentioned already, the scientific method means constantly generating new hypothesis and rigorously assessing them with facts. Well, this is a tough method, because it is usually much easier to come up with a hypothesis than to gather the facts that support it ; and as a result, the scientific method means that we know that in order to be right sometimes, we will need to test many hypotheses and to fail often at proving them ; and when this happens, we will have to discard the hypothesis and need to generate, and test, another one. So we accept to be wrong often and to try and try and try again until we find the facts that support our approach. Like everyone, we prefer to be right than to be wrong, so every time we test a hypothesis and have to discard it later because the facts do not support it, we take a hit. This is tough, but this is the approach we believe is the best to come up with excellent, science base innovation. Believe us, this also forces humility and resilience !
Science as a source of fun
Science may sound like a stern world to some readers. But for us, this is also fun : at Skintifique, we like and enjoy the challenges to crack the tough problems of inventing, developing, and bringing to people new products and solutions to improve health and well-being, be it in dermatology, in ophthalmology or in other areas. And if some readers think we are geeks, so be it ! Science and technology geeks that is !
One last word : science is a keyword for Skintifique, but science is not just for scientists. Of course, some aspects are, but the scientific approach, the curiosity, the hypothesis and fact base approach, the readiness to be constantly challenged by reality, all these qualities are also at play in many activities that are not traditionally viewed as ‘scientific’, but that are key in our endeavor. To loosely paraphrase Georges Clémenceau : innovation is too important to be left to scientists alone (original citation : “War is too important a matter to be left to the military”)
So definitely, we believe and commit to doing science-based innovation, for and by real people.
What do you think ? Do you feel it should be otherwise ? Let the world know what you feel !
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