Fighting acne? Would you consider rubbing a milk product on your face?
Epiology Skincare is a solution that uses a combination of natural milk proteins and bioactive enzymes to fight acne and reduce the associated redness.
The skincare range was developed by New Zealand biotech company Quantec. What made Quantec look to milk for a solution to acne, and does it work?
Capitalising on a serendipitous discovery
In 2005, Rod Claycomb was running a company called Sensortec – a Waikato business involved in the development of on-farm technologies for separating out a wide range of components in milk. Different components in milk, such as the protein lactoferrin, are recognised as being valuable for human health, so there was interest in how these components could be efficiently separated from other components of milk.
Sensortec hired scientist Judy Bragger to research milk proteins with a view to how they might develop a way to “pull milk apart on the farm”. Judy came across some interesting properties of proteins that showed an intriguing combination of antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Recognising the value of the discovery, Judy and Rod set up Quantec Biotechnology to commercialise the proteins. The proteins, isolated from fresh pasteurised milk, are patented as IDP – immune defence proteins.
Nature of science
Sometimes discoveries in science occur when scientists are looking at something completely different. Quantec discovered IDP when researching milk proteins with a view to creating technology to separate out milk components. The key to serendipitous discovery is that scientists and organisations remain open to results they weren’t expecting.
Sourcing milk proteins
Quantec sources its IDP from New Zealand dairy factories, specifying the milk proteins it wants. 10 litres of cow’s milk delivers 1 gram of IDP powder. The product is then freeze dried and delivered as a powder. After adding some activators that are lost in the protein production, this formulation can be used in a variety of applications such as foods, health supplements, personal care products, cosmetics and animal health remedies.
Initially, Quantec only supplied the IDP powder to other companies to manufacture into products. A number of companies picked up the supplement to use in immune-boosting drinks and tablets for human health.
Rod and Judy thought the product would be ideal for a skincare range, and looking at an acne solution seemed an obvious first place to investigate. They decided to create a basic acne cream for field trials in the USA as a proof of concept to boost the sales of their IDP.
In the clinical trial, Quantec’s specially formulated skin cream with IDP went head to head in a double-blind study against a top US-based clinical brand of acne treatment cream (containing 2% salicylic acid plus retinol).
At the end of the 42-day trial involving 84 subjects, both the premium brand of acne cream and the IDP-based cream showed statistically equivalent results in terms of total reduction in acne lesions. However, the IDP-based cream also showed a major improvement in reduction of redness and irritation. With the results being so good, Quantec saw the opportunity to add value to its business by creating its own skincare range.
Judy went back to the Quantec lab and developed a recipe for what is now Epiology Skincare. The range includes a cleanser, an anti-acne cream and a spot gel.
Quantec continues to develop and market Epiology Skincare. It is also now looking at the animal health field and is presently developing a non-antibiotic product for mastitis in cows. Reducing antibiotic use in dairy herds is a smart direction for a number of reasons:
- Milk with antibiotic contamination cannot be used – presently, it is estimated that 31% of milk contamination is from antibiotics.
- Mastitis is something all dairy farmers need to deal with from time to time.
- Consumers are demanding fewer chemical inputs into their food.
- With the ‘wicked problem’ of antimicrobial resistance, we need to find alternative ways to deal with infection in animals as well as humans.
The Science Learning Hub acknowledges Showdown Productions and Rural Delivery for their assistance in the writing of this story.
Rural Delivery is a television programme that explores innovation and excellence within the primary industries.