‘APAC is the big one’: Start-up with novel sun care discovery seeks B2B and DTC opportunities
Kutanios is a biotech start-up founded by two Oxford University medical scientists: CEO Dr Irina Miller and CSO Professor Norman Miller.
The company developed a unique mechanism to mitigate the harmful effects of ultraviolet rays and atmospheric pollution by targeting lipid peroxides in skin.
Professor Norman Miller is a foremost lipoproteins expert and was part of the team that discovered the link between high-density lipoproteins (HDL) and protection against heart disease. This was published as the HDL hypothesis in medical journal The Lancet in 1975.
Miller’s further studies into the role of HDL led to his research into lipid peroxides and their harmful effects on the skin.
“There's a lot of scientific literature and medical literature on the effects of lipid peroxides in biology, but also in particular, the effects on the skin. They reduce synthesis of elastin in the skin, and they are an important cause of DNA damage,” explained Miller.
“There's quite a lot of evidence that they are a factor in the ageing of skin and its cosmetic changes, also that they are an important factor in causing skin cancer and sunburn and acne too.”
Give the importance of sun care and anti-ageing in APAC’s mammoth skin care market, Miller told us that it was of vital importance to the start-up. “The APAC market is the big one. For skin care its maybe 50% of the world’s market.”
It is already in talks with one of the leading distributors of personal care fine chemicals in the APAC region, which believes Lipoxerase has tremendous potential here in the sun care, anti-ageing, and anti-acne markets.
Furthermore, Miller revealed that the company is working on developing its own DTC skin care brand that will feature Lipoxerase as its star ingredient. “We want to develop our own brand particularly for e-commerce and that would include APAC too.”
At the moment, the company has not reached the stage of production and is hopes to begin pilot manufacturing in Switzerland by the second quarter of next year.
It is also seeking out funding, which will help the company start commercialisation by the end of 2023.
Lipid peroxides: A cause for concern?
Lipid peroxides are produced constantly from the natural oils in our skin and its production is increased enormously by sunlight and atmospheric pollution.
Miller found that the level of lipid peroxides in human skin is almost 30 times that expected from the level in blood. While their effects are significant, there is currently no technology on the market that targets this problem.
He also noted that despite rising sales of sunscreens, skin cancer has continued to increase globally. “There's a lot of evidence that lipid peroxides are important in cause skin diseases, ageing of skin, sunburn, acne, and also skin cancer.”
Miller discovered that HDL proteins bind lipid peroxides and thereby prevent their harmful effects.
“They have a very high binding affinity for lipid peroxide. They sequester them and sort of mop them up. And in that form, lipid peroxides are no longer active, no longer harmful.”
This led to the development of Lipoxerase, peptides that “mop up” lipid peroxides and render them non-harmful and ensuring their safe removal.
The company performed proof-of-concept studies with cultured fibroblasts and cultured keratinocytes in two separate research labs in Spain and France. It was able to prove that Lipoxerase could reduce all the harmful effects of ultraviolet irradiation.
It can also increasing collagen, protecting elastin, reduce inflammation, and protect DNA.
“We expected some protection of DNA, because it's known that lipid peroxides damage DNA, and that they the most important cause of skin cancer, and as you can see, we got basically 100% protection,” said Miller.
It has also completed a preliminary study on young adults with acne. After four weeks, it observed significant reduction in severity. Further research on acne and other skin conditions is currently in progress