Two universities in São Paulo State are among global leaders of cosmetics research
June 22, 2016
By Elton Alisson | Agência FAPESP – The Universities of São Paulo (USP) and Campinas (UNICAMP) in Brazil are among the world’s most prolific scientific research institutions in cosmetics, ranking first and eighth, respectively, according to The 2016 State of Innovation Report published by Thomson Reuters IP & Science.
The survey shows that USP published 177 cosmetics-related scientific papers indexed by the Web of Science between 2005 and 2015, outperforming the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA), with 108, the US-based consumer goods manufacturer Procter & Gamble (P&G), with 103, and Harvard University, with 83.
UNICAMP published 78 cosmetics-related scientific papers indexed by the WoS in the same period, ahead of the University of California Los Angeles (70) and the University of California San Francisco (68).
Ricardo Horiuchi, a Thomson Reuters specialist in innovation, intellectual property (IP) and science, told Agência FAPESP that “Brazil has always had a significant share of the global cosmetics market [its domestic market for personal hygiene products, perfumes and cosmetics is the third-largest in the world, behind only the US and China]. This is evidently reflected by the amount of research performed in the field”.
Ten years ago, Brazil did not even rank among the top ten countries in participation in international conferences on cosmetic science, recalled Patricia Maia Campos, a professor at the USP’s Ribeirão Preto Pharmaceutical Science School (FCFRP).
The situation began to change with the creation of research centers such as FCFRP’s Center for Advanced Research on Cosmetics Technology (NEATEC), which was founded in 1998 and is headed by Campos. Interaction between research institutions and the cosmetics industry has increased since then, she explained.
Through partnerships with manufacturers and research institutions in other countries, scientists at NEATEC have conducted a number of R&D projects involving innovative formulations, skin and hair characterization studies, and research on clinical effectiveness, among other lines of investigation.
Partnerships have resulted in the publication of 67 articles in indexed journals by NEATEC’s researchers in the last ten years, as well as five patents – three granted in Brazil, a fourth pending, and a fifth awarded abroad.
“Partnerships with the industry stimulate scientists to undertake applied research that can result in innovations,” Campos said.
One of the innovations developed by researchers at NEATEC came about through a partnership with Ourofino, a Brazilian manufacturer of veterinary products. Based on spirulina microalgae obtained by biotechnological processes, the product simultaneously hydrates the skin and prevents it from becoming too oily, according to the company. The application resulted in US and European patents for Ourofino.
Through a research project on which she is now working with support from FAPESP, Campos aims to develop a spirulina-based sunscreen. “This would be a new application for spirulina and could result in another patent,” she said.
In a previous project, also supported by FAPESP, Campos and collaborators developed a sunscreen based on Ginkgo biloba and red seaweed, which affords protection against the harmful effects of ultraviolet light, enhances skin texture and elasticity, stimulates cell renewal, hydrates, and combats wrinkles (read more at agencia.fapesp.br/15177).
This product was patented and drew attention from researchers at Chanel’s Human Skin Research Center (CERIES) in France. NEATEC and CERIES later entered into a partnership agreement.
“In addition to Chanel and Ourofino, we also partner with L’Oréal and other French companies, as well as Japan’s Nikkol, Brazil’s Galena, and universities in France, Germany and Portugal,” Campos said.
UNICAMP also partners with L’Oréal, as well as with Brazil’s Natura and has increasingly licensed technology from its projects for applications in cosmetics and several other areas.
To heighten the visibility of this licensing program involving technology protected by patents or registration in a computer system, the university’s innovation agency (Inova Unicamp) has created a database that can be accessed via its web portal for information on each technology by category.
In cosmetics, for example, the institution has a portfolio of 29 technologies, including a nanometer-scale particle containing buriti oil and ceramides that promises to help prevent hair loss.
“We’ve won many more licensing agreements since we put our portfolio of patents on the web. The number reached an all-time high of 15 in 2015,” said Milton Mori, Inova Unicamp’s managing director.
Both USP and UNICAMP advocate a policy of “open innovation”, whereby companies, universities, government agencies and research institutions enter into partnership agreements to market new products and technologies. According to the Thomson Reuters report, this approach is increasingly common and is driving innovation worldwide.
For example, USP is partnering with P&G, the FDA and Harvard University to upgrade cosmetics production processes.
Furthermore, according to the report, the University of Michigan in the US and Italy’s Turin Polytechnic University have joined forces with Ford to develop automotive technology.
“We’ve noted growing numbers of co-owned patents taken out jointly by a company and a university or research institution,” Horiuchi said. “This shows a closing of the gap between academia and business, which used to be very wide. We’re also seeing many scientific articles co-authored by researchers in companies and researchers in universities or similar institutions.”
The report says global patent activity grew 13.7% in 2015, while in the period 2009-2015, global innovation output grew in all 12 sectors analyzed (aerospace and defense; automotive; biotechnology; cosmetics and well-being; food, beverages and tobacco; home appliances; information technology; medical devices; oil and gas; pharmaceuticals; semiconductors; and telecommunications).
Scientific research output, however, fell 19% in 2015 and has declined 27% since 2009, reflecting the global financial crisis.
The growth observed in patent activity in 2015 was led by aerospace and defense (15%), medical devices (27%) and home appliances (21%).
The only sector in which overall global innovation activity decelerated in 2015 was biotechnology (-2%).
The downturn in scientific publications suggests that innovation may decelerate overall in the future because new research typically precedes discoveries that can result in new technologies and innovations, according to the report.
“Patents are typically derived from basic research by scientists in universities and research institutions. They steadily refine their work until it reaches a mature stage when a company gets interested and decides to develop technology from the research findings,” Horiuchi said.
“If the number of scientific publications on basic research performed at universities starts to fall, this could affect innovation in the future.”
The Thomson Reuters report is the seventh edition of the annual report, which is based on global IP statistics such as patent activity and scientific publications as indicators of innovation in the 12 sectors mentioned.
The 2016 State of Innovation Report can be downloaded from stateofinnovation.thomsonreuters.com.
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