Next year the Groningen company Solenne B.V will be 10 years old. Solenne focuses on the development, production and sale of fullerene derivatives, carbon molecules, which are used in the solar cell industry. Solenne is also patent holder and manufacturer of an outstanding cosmetic product: Combray®.
Kees Hummelen, professor of
Chemistry and Molecular Materials and Devices
at the University of Groningen (Dutch abbreviation: RUG), is front runner in the development of organic solar cells. He is CEO at Solenne. What is the meeting point between scientific research into solar cells and skin care?
Kees: ‘One of the two ingredients of the active layer in an organic solar cell is also an antioxidant. In the solar cell this material is used solely to form and transport the (-)-loads and though it plays no significant role in the antioxidant effect, it does indeed have a role under other conditions! Human skin is (just as organic solar cells are) subjected to chemically aggressive conditions as a result of the combined presence of light, oxygen, water and coloured molecules. Think in this regard of skin that has been exposed to sunlight for too long. When that causes damage we call it oxidative stress.’
‘Oxidative stress occurs when too many disruptive molecules, such as free radicals, are present, or when these radicals are located at undesirable places in the body. Our bodies contain Vitamin E to protect the cells, the cell wall and the tissue from these radicals. But this mechanism does not work optimally with everyone. Disruption can lead to skin complaints resulting in, for instance, acne or psoriasis. Oxofulleram, the active ingredient of Combray which we developed, has all the properties of Vitamin E but it has a much better effect and can be used much more efficiently.’
Kees: ‘A vitamin E molecule must capture and neutralise free radicals. The capture and neutralisation that takes place for each molecule occurs far more frequently by means of Oxofulleram – the fullerene molecule developed by us and incorporated in Combray – than it could through vitamin E. This means it is more effective and some call it a type of ‘free radical sponge’. Scientific research has proved this. More importantly, Oxofulleram has been specifically designed to perform the protective work while focused exactly where it should be: in the skin cell of the cell wall. Nothing of the intended effect is lost. Six drops of Combray per day is the best way to keep the skin looking natural.’
Maureen van Veelen graduated in business economics at the University of Groningen. As Managing Director she is responsible for the daily affairs at Solenne B.V. Maureen: ‘The unique selling point of Combray is that the face oil contains just 2 ingredients: the antioxidant Oxofulleram patented by us and organic grape seed oil. No incredibly long lists of ingredients with the risk of allergies. Furthermore, the concentration of the active substance is very high, which is unique compared with other cosmetic products.’
Good times for Solenne B.V. an enterprise that began as a spin-off company of the University of Groningen with support from RUG Houdstermaatschappij B.V. (University of Groningen holding). Busy times too because a new website has just been launched:
. Maureen: ‘It was really time for an own website that would fit in with the luxurious and unique character of Combray and in my opinion we achieved that. Meanwhile, the orders are starting to roll in, both from home and abroad. The true media campaign is yet to get underway but for now we are very satisfied. So in this respect it's definitely possible to speak in terms of a successful valorisation.’
Maureen: ‘At Solenne we are continuously busy with research aimed at improving the current formula of our facial oil as a cosmetic product. Additionally, we are now working hard to expand the product line, obviously with due regard for what we feel is important: Oxofulleram as the basis and only adding ingredients that actually have something to offer the skin.’
Kees: ‘The present challenge is to investigate whether we can further develop Combray and turn it into a medical product. Considering our background as a company from Groningen with roots in the University of Groningen, if we do indeed manage to take the new dermatological step as Solenne, and I am optimistic, then yes, we will have embarked on a new phase.’
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