Call it a think tank for skin.
The Center for Dermal Research (CDR)—an academic research group formed in 2011 to address skin care research through a multidisciplinary approach—pools together faculty from Rutgers University, the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and Princeton University with those in the pharma, personal care and cosmetic industries. Billing itself as a “dermatopharmaceutics” research center, this diverse group of experts share a common goal: gaining a greater level of knowledge about human skin.
“The long-term vision for the CDR is to grow into a major institute for skin research in the Northeast, supported by research grants and contracts from federal, state and industrial funders,” said CDR founder Dr. Bozena “Bo” Michniak-Kohn, who is a professor of Pharmaceutics, Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy at Rutgers.
Members of TRI/DermaNestjoin Dr. Bozena “Bo” Michniak-Kohn (center) at reception during the NJ Symposium on Biomaterials.
Current CDR supporters include some of the biggest names in consumer skin care and pharmaceuticals as well as leading ingredient suppliers. For example, Avon, Johnson & Johnson, Lonza, EMD Millipore, TRI Princeton/International Dermatological Institute, DermaNest and Croda are among its platinum level supporters, while gold level members include L’Oréal, Presperse, Intertek and Glaxo Smith Kline. Target Health, Ashland, Neostrata Company, Teva Pharmaceuticals and Peter Thomas Roth Clinical Skin Care are among CDR’s silver members.
There are several individual members too, including dermatologists, physicians and industry experts, and the CDR Advisory Council counts of the council of Julie Hirsch (J&J), John Lyga (Avon), Gopi Menon (Ashland), Vince Gruber (Lonza), Otto Mills (RWJ-Medical School) and John Bushby (Rutgers).
In its first year, the CDR launched an intensive schedule of seminars, webinars, clinical roundtables, one-day symposia and networking events that attracted a diverse audience from the academic, legal, clinical and industrial sectors and event attendance ranged from 50 to125, depending on the event structure.
At CDR Clinical Roundtables, for example, select group of attendees heard from physicians/dermatologists. Michnak-Kohn also offered a graduate level semester-long course in “dermaceutics.”
Also this Fall, CDR offered training session with hands-on experience in the laboratory, including the use of in vitro equipment that mimics drugs going into the skin and the evaluation of the process.
“This can be used for testing new formulas in industry as well as new drugs and other compounds,” said Dr. Michniak.
CDR also held its first training course using Q sense (quartz crystal microbalance equipment) at the New Jersey Center for Biomaterials (NJCBM) at Rutgers.
CDR’s connection to NJCBM runs deep. The second floor of the NJCBM at Rutgers houses the Michniak-Kohn Laboratory for Drug Delivery (LDD), a biology suite and Class 10,000 clean room. CDR also has access to NJCBM’s multiple networks that have created a rich infrastructure of more than 50 partnerships or collaborations that have been nurtured for more than two decades, according to Michniak-Kohn.
CDR’s Fourth Annual Skin Workshop, "Skin Reconstruction for Wounds, Burns and Deep Skin Trauma,” was sponsored by Johnson & Johnson, Lonza and Target Health. The workshop focused on skin reconstruction for wounds, burns and deep skin trauma and brought together leading clinician-researchers, government scientists and industrial technology directors.
CDR and Michniak-Kohn also played a roll in the recent NJ Symposium on Biomaterials, the 11th installment of the conference organized by NJCMB.
Held Oct. 9-11 in New Brunswick, the conference, entitled “Bioactive Scaffolds—from the Nano To the Macro Scale,” enabled attendees and speakers to go deep into areas such as wound healing. For example, sessions included “Bioactve Materials for Regeneration of Skin” and “Stem Cells in Regenerative Medicine.”
Michniak-Kohn expanded on the link between wound healing and general topical personal care/skin care.
“Learning the details of the biochemical pathways and mechanisms allows researchers to identify new compounds that could be used to reverse skin aging as an example,” she said.
CDR collaborates and partners with more than 30 academic research groups in the US and internationally, including the Basic and Applied Dermatology Forum, the Bioscience Collaborative and NY Society for Cosmetic Chemists (NYSCC).
CDR has also been successful in establishing several research collaborations with industry, including Lipo Chemicals, Inc.
Michniak-Kohn said CDR’s goals for 2013 include securing a stream of funding to support expansion of the CDR, expanding the capabilities and academic collaborations, developing more partnerships with industry and other organizations in the dermatology/skin care area and expanding training programs.
“In the next year we plan to launch a new website at NJCBM/CDR that will include an e-learning site for industry members, teaching and training (for industry as well as Rutgers’ students) in skin membrane transport testing and terahertz spectroscopy analyses among other topics, all in addition to continuing the first year’s programs,” she added.
CDR also plans to launch an online archive of recorded audio and slides of 2011-2012 CDR seminars for its members.
For Michniak-Kohn, CDR offers “new innovative educational, training and networking events that are unique in this geographical area plus the opportunity to do research studies with a group of outstanding scientists with expertize in skin biology, dermal formulations and permeability testing.”
Some of the newest research at CDR includes “ways of predicting how compounds go into and through the skin, how we can apply new carrier systems for delivering compounds to the skin that once were deemed unusable since they were too large or had properties that prevented them from going into the skin,” she said.
She continued, “How we can stabilize new naturally occurring compounds or natural extracts and how we can test skin permeation and effect on the cells? How we can regenerate skin in the lab and find the roles that skin genes play in predicting what we can apply best to our skin to delay the aging process, prevent excessive sunburn and moisturize the skin effectively? How we can develop new assays for testing effects of compounds on skin-aging, skin regeneration, cell renewal, skin whitening, skin protection and optimize topical compound delivery?”
According to Dr. Michniak, for the personal care industry CDR offers a new way to learn about innovative aspects of science and a chance to network “with academicians, dermatologists, consultants and industrial representatives in a smaller group than often one experiences at large professional meetings,” she said.“We give extra time to support networking time.”
In addition, she said CDR provides access to young investigators (students and post-docs) which is “beneficial to both sides; industry finds new hires while the young investigators find internships and company positions.”