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The Science of Skin Care

By Tom Branna, Editorial Director | September 12, 2011

The Center for Dermal Research is fast becoming a leading source of innovation and information for personal care marketers and their suppliers.

There’s a new Center that focuses on research and development for the global personal care industry and it’s based in New Jersey—Rutgers University in Piscataway, NJ to be more specific. The founder and director is Prof. Bo Michniak-Kohn, a faculty member of the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy and the NJ Center for Biomaterials where the Center is housed. Since opening its doors in March, organizers of the Center for Dermal Research (CDR) say they are committed to providing professional development opportunities for CDR’s paid industrial members; networking with researchers from industry and academia; undertaking research collaborations with the Laboratory for Drug Delivery ( and connecting with other faculty and research groups for skin research. In addition, CDR is collaborating with leading researchers at universities throughout the country and outside the US.

CDR’s activities haven’t gone unnoticed. Thus far, its member companies include Avon, Johnson & Johnson, Lonza, Millipore, Paradigm Science, Presperse, L’Oréal, Target Health, NeoStrata, ISP and DermPathe Pharmaceuticals as well as many individual members, including Nava Dayan, who is the Head of research and development at Lipo Chemicals, Inc., an Adjunct Professor at the Ernest Mario School of Pharmaceutics at Rutgers and the Education Program Chair of the New York Chapter of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists.

“This is a unique set-up,” insisted Dayan. “We are building a network to work on efficacy, safety screening and applications.”

Dayan noted that the personal care industry has changed dramatically in recent years as companies grapple with huge initiatives such as REACH and the Seventh Amendment to the Cosmetic Directive.
“There is a need for more safety studies, but they become a burden for many companies that are struggling due to the economy,” she explained.
The faculty’s depth of knowledge and the facility’s range of equipment have captured the attention of some of the leading companies in the personal care industry. Among the companies that CDR has done work for are Lipo Chemicals, Inc., Avon and J&J. In one study, CDR researchers teamed up with Lipo to conduct a comparative evaluation of phototoxic effect of fractionated melanin and chlorpromazine hydrochloride on human (dermal fibroblasts and epidermal keratinocytes) and mouse cell lines.
More than Labs

CDR boasts a wide range of equipment including two Agilent 1100 HPLCs with diode array and ChemStation software, autosamplers, UV/vis detectors, a VankelVK 7010 Dissolution Test Station with VK 8000 Sampling Station, 10 x nine Franz diffusion cell modules, Buchler vortex evaporator, Mettler electronic balances, 8-foot chemical fume hood, Revco chest freezer and Forma Scientific upright freezer, dishwashers and refrigerators. The site also has four SterilGARD III Advance Class II Biosafety hoods, Napco CO2 1000 7301-C double incubator, Nanopure ultrapure water purification system, a Leica DMIL microscope, autoclave, Beckman TJ-6 centrifuge, Perkin Elmer Gene Amp 2400 RT-PCR and ELISA. In addition, CDR has access to a Class 10,000 clean room and a facility for confocal imaging with a multiphoton Leica TCS SP2 AOBS and a Zeiss LSM410 confocal microscope. Electron microscopy facilities are available in Biology with an Amray SEM 1830 I. A scintillation counter is also available (Beckman Counter LS 6500). In addition, CDR has access to differential scanning calorimeters (DSCs), FT-IRs and NMR facilities.
According to Michniak-Kohn, the facility has three times the laboratory space compared to a typical university lab. And, due its location and affiliations, CDR can add personnel quickly and easily to accommodate the various research needs of its partners.
“The capabilities in the lab are unique,” insisted Michniak-Kohn. “We already collaborate with many faculty and for example, conduct gene expression experiments with another faculty member from the Pharmacy School.”
In addition, CDR conducts electron microscopy, confocal, spectroscopic and in-vivo testing.

“We can work with human-derived fibroblasts and all kinds of cell lines to study genotoxicity end points,” added Dayan.

CDR has even developed a skin equivalent model, tentatively called Tyroderm. According to Michniak-Kohn, the model is similar to MaTek’s Epiderm but improves on that model because it includes a polymer scaffold to give it structure and mechanical strength. The tyrosine-based CDR model is designed to study a range of endpoints in skin including compound permeability, toxicity, wound healing and anti-aging.
According to Michniak-Kohn, through its research facilities in New Jersey, its global network of investigators and its penchant for education and collaboration, the groups’s goal is clear: to be the premier dermatopharmaceutical center in New Jersey conducting studies on topical and transdermal compound delivery and skin tissue engineering.
Other Opportunities

But research capabilities only tell a part of the story. CDR holds many events throughout the year including seminars, real-time webinars, symposiums and roundtables featuring leaders from the personal care and pharmaceutical industries as well as academia. For example, earlier this month CDR (in collaboration with the Bioscience Collaborative out of Princeton held the Skin Deep Symposium: Natural Products for Topical Applications on Oct. 4. Later, the 4th CDR Annual Skin Workshop was held Oct. 12-13. The Workshop is endorsed by the Rutgers Cleveland Clinic Consortium of the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine (AFIRM) and is devoted to skin reconstruction for wounds, burns and deep skin trauma. Next spring, CDR will provide an evening course in dermatopharmaceutics that will include leading presenters from the pharmaceutical and personal care industries as well as academics.
These events are part of CDR’s vision to provide quality educational opportunities for its members through workshops, seminars, symposia and courses.
“We hope that, within a few years, when people think of skin, that they think of us first,” concluded Michniak-Kohn.
More info: Prof. Bozena B. Michniak-Kohn at

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