S'pore labs strike gold in the beauty business

S'pore labs strike gold in the beauty business
Above photo is Prof Lane.

SINGAPORE - Move over, blockbuster drugs - you can't hog the labs. Biopolis, home to the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star), is rolling out the welcome mat for skincare and personal care companies.

The newest corporate to sink in research dollars at A*Star is French beauty and haircare giant L'Oreal, which will start a research centre of eight scientists at A*Star's Institute of Medical Biology (IMB) to do research in skin biology.

Before this, personal care company Procter & Gamble (P&G) also took to Biopolis with a $250 million research and innovation centre that will open next year.

A*Star's newest partners are unlike its usual bedfellows among pharmaceutical and healthcare companies.

But beneath the beauty and personal care industry's gloss and glamour lies a competitive enterprise, constantly looking for scientific advancements to outsmart rivals.

Market researcher Euromonitor said the Asia-Pacific beauty and personal care industry in 2011 was worth US$114.3 billion, registering consistent growth since 2008 when it was a US$73 billion market.

With the Asian slice of the pie expected to reach US$140 billion by 2016, skincare companies hungry for higher sales and market share in Asia understand how important it is to understand Asian characteristics - akin to how drug companies have begun redeveloping drugs for specific genetic make-up.

"Setting up an R&D centre that is near the consumer base is also good marketing for the companies as they will be able to show consumers that they created these products with them in mind," observed Kelvin Chan, head of country research at Euromonitor International.

And Singapore's access to diverse Asian phenotypes and its concentration of scientists and researchers excelling in skin biology are why pharmaceutical companies and skincare companies alike get interested, said IMB executive director Birgitte Lane.

Helping A*Star's industry appeal along is the abstract sounding Skin Biology Cluster Platform, a collective of A*Star researchers.

A year ago, more than a dozen of them - not necessarily skin biology researchers - from different labs were pooled into the platform for their work that could have possible skincare applications.

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