MitoQ Limited, a subsidiary of New Zealand development stage pharmaceutical corporation Antipodean Pharmaceuticals, will launch into the beauty industry with a single sku facial cream, in late 2012. The company boast that its star ingredient - also named MitoQ - is the world’s most powerful antioxidant. With R&D costs topping US$30m it is a high stakes offer from this Kiwi company.
How did you make the transition from compound to cosmetic?
We were undertaking research with Dr Michael Murphy, of Cambridge and Professor Rob Smith, from Dunedin, on MitoQ, [initially for medical purposes] defining the role of mitochondrial dysfunction in the ageing process, when Allergan launched Prevage (Idebenone) and claimed idebenone to be the most powerful antioxidant known. We knew from our studies of human skin cell cultures that MitoQ was 1000 times more potent than idebenone as an antioxidant in preventing human skin cells from dying due to exposure to reactive oxygen species and free radicals. This huge improvement in MitoQ antioxidant activity was due to MitoQ being able to penetrate the skin cells’ energy source, mitochondria. Idebenone and its like compound CoQ (coenzyme Q) cannot penetrate mitochondria, the source of free radical production that causes skin cells to age. After testing, we were advised by Dr Jonathan Wilken, ex-head of the FDA’s [US Food and Drug Administration] Division of Dermatology that because of MitoQ’s safety and biochemical efficacy profile, it could be developed as a cosmeceutical product.
And how did you spend the US$30m?
Our research investment on MitoQ technology began in 2001. Costs of research, laboratories, synthetic chemistry of over 100 designed compounds, a series of five patents filed in all countries in the world, consultation with top scientists, clinicians and product formulators are certainly expensive but very necessary to optimise our research and development into MitoQ. And the production process? First we scaled up production of the MitoQ pure substance. Then we asked expert laboratories to confirm the potency and potential of MitoQ in protecting skin cells (both firoblasts and keratinocytes). Evaluation by Prof John Voorhees group at University of Michigan, Estée Lauder Laboratories, New York and Amore Pacific laboratories in Seoul was obtained. Next we completed formulation research to produce a MitoQ topical cream. Clinical evaluation of the cream to confirm safety (no skin irritancy) and efficacy in a variety of human subjects was then carried out.
What is the strategy you will employ to compete internationally?
Our science was audited by publication in the most highly respected biochemical and medical journals. Science leading to efficacy is our strength. Established cosmetic companies tend to have a corporate culture where marketing runs research. The consequence is a conservative “same as before” product development process. So science empowering the informed consumer is our key marketing strategy. Efficacy is of course the ultimate test.
Sarah de Castro, Auckland