Topical drug manufacturer Ei has signed worldwide exclusive agreements with European-based professors and technologists to license a sphingolipid technology that improves barrier function and moisture retention when applied topically.
The technology was originally discovered by a professor in Germany, and the license was brokered by consulting firm Charles River Associates International, who approached Ei based on their topical expertise and valuable network of strategic partners.
The specific technology consists of a novel lamellar lipid topically delivered through a custom formulation system. According to Charles Gray, PhD, senior VP of R&D for Ei, the product is naturally derived. "This is a naturally derived component of a sphingolipid that you would find in the skin. It's novel in that if you were trying to isolate those from the skin, you wouldn’t be able to do it," explained Gray.
Similar to other sphingolipid technologies, this material fills the space between the cells in the stratum corneum, thereby helping cells retain moisture and keep out environmental aggressors. Sphingolipids arrange differently in the skin depending on skin type. However, Gray noted that the novel sphingolipid performed better than other known sphingolipids based on preliminary tests. "The technology has demonstrated significantly better barrier function with substantial improvement in moisture retention when compared to commercially available sphingolipid compounds," he said. The technology was tested in a simple solution against commonly accepted sphingolipids such as ceramides. "The preliminary results suggest that the binding capacity of water is 80% more effective than you would see with other similar molecules for moisturization. Our penetration study suggests that this molecule strengthens the barrier of the skin 15 times better than other sphingolipids on the market," explained Gray.
He emphasized that his research team is still optimizing the molecule in a carrier system, which they believe not only will deliver the molecule to the right layer in the stratum corneum but will also improve its effects on the skin. "We are working with a professor in Germany who has worked with other dermatology companies to develop delivery technologies that are designed to get the sphingolipids into the right layers of the skin. It’s not just about the therapeutic molecule, but also how do you get that molecule to the layer it needs to get to within the stratum corneum so it performs its function. This is a custom tailored delivery system that allows you to get it where it needs to be," he added.
In addition to improving moisture retention and barrier function, Gray has found that the molecule also improves elasticity of the skin.
Gray's research team is currently working on scaling up the synthesis of the active ingredient. In addition, they are working on refining the carrier system. He furthered, "Our next major milestone will be testing the technology in the carrier system and the impact that the carrier system has on the technology."
Gray expects to have the technology ready for the market in 18 months, at which point he believes it will compete with other moisturizing market leaders. Its use in topical formulations, however, will be dictated by his company's customer, and Ei is currently looking for a marketing partner to commercialize the technology.
Although the team is currently researching the sphingolipid's topical benefit in skin moisturizers, the agreement does not restrict their research to moisturizing applications. "We have the ability to approach different customers for other types of applications," he said, furthering, "We saw this as a unique opportunity to impact the moisturization market. We don’t know the full potential. The early data we have seen were very promising, and we would not want to limit the scope to a signature ingredient in a cosmetic."