"The beauty of science is that we can check that it works."
Dr. Suzanne Saffie-Siebert, Ph.D.
Chief Good Scientist, GSB Laboratories
Good Science Beauty has its origins in biotech research. Our founder, Dr. Suzanne Saffie-Siebert, PhD, is a leading expert in drug delivery – the science of transporting pharmaceutical compounds to their target site in the body, in order to make them safer and more effective.
Through her biotech company, SiSaf, Suzanne developed a variety of drug delivery technologies that use biodegradable silicon particles for the needle free delivery of medicines.
Many cosmetic ingredients share the same challenges faced by pharmaceutical ingredients: they degrade easily when exposed to air or light (such as Vitamins A, C, and E) and/or their molecular size or solubility profile restrict their uptake by the target organ – the skin.
Skincare is a passion of Suzanne’s. Like most people she has tried countless skincare products that didn’t do what they promised. So she decided to apply her delivery technology to cosmetics – and Good Science Beauty was born.
Tell us about your background as a scientist. How about starting from the beginning?
Sure. As you might know, I was born in Iran. Although most of my family worked in fields unrelated to science, my great-grandfather was known as a medicine man, which I didn't know until I was around 10 years old. I formed a kind of connection with him. Weirdly enough, ever since I was a child, I would prepare remedies for my family—if you had a stomach ache, I'd create medicine for you. At the time, no one in the family understood where this passion came from.
When I was a teenager, the Iranian Revolution happened and my world was turned upside down. My father was a senior official at the Ministry of Education, and like so many others, we went through lots of changes and started over in London, but it was tough. I worked at a pharmacy as a source of income and got to put my skills to good use.
Later, I enrolled in the University of London School of Pharmacy. I wasn't sure about going back to school, but my boss at the pharmacy suggested I get my PhD because I enjoyed research. When I started my studies in 1994, gene therapy was a burgeoning field, and I ended up becoming the first student in the School of Pharmacy that did a PhD on using a delivery system to incorporate plasmid DNA of Hepatitis B. It was a complicated and diverse research project, but for me, it was an exciting time, exploring unknown territory. My love for research and development hasn't stopped since.
Why did you choose to found Good Science Beauty and SiSaf? Why not one or the other?
That’s a great question. Our business plan is based on our two companies complementing each other: Good Science Beauty, our skincare line, uses findings gathered from SiSaf, our biotech company that focuses on the development of prescription medicines for gene therapy and also for skin conditions, such as psoriasis. Both companies use a similar delivery technology.
Nobody in my R&D team comes from a classical cosmetics background. All of them have PhD’s. But as you know, it can take ages for pharmaceutical products to get to market. At Good Science Beauty, I can create scientifically advanced skincare products that can be made available to the public in a much shorter time period.
Of course, skincare products generally don’t have the same life changing impact that prescription medicines can have. But good skincare can make a real difference to people’s lives. A survey found that for most people healthy skin is almost as important for their personal happiness as family and general health. This is why I don’t want to limit my technology to pharmaceuticals but use it also to help people feel good in their own skin.
With your extensive career in pharmaceuticals, it seems natural that you would start your own company. Can you tell us about SiSaf?
When I registered SiSaf, I wanted to focus on drug-delivery research, a field I was working in for almost 15 years before I started the company. Drug delivery centers on vehicles that deliver drugs to the source of a medical problem. A drug doesn’t understand if it needs to go to the head, the shoulder, the skin, or any other part of the body, which means if you’re in pain, you’ll take a high dose of a drug when you actually only need a few milligrams delivered effectively. You have to take such a high dosage because the drug needs to be distributed to the whole body before it reaches the target. Often, tissue barriers prevent absorption and on the way to its target the drug molecule can be made ineffective by the body’s enzymes or pH level.
One example of this is using chemotherapy to fight cancer. The drug will kill the cancer cells, but it’ll also attack healthy cells, which leads to a weak immune system. With drug delivery, we aim to point the medicine to the affected area and spare the rest of the body.
Another issue of many drugs is stability. Many molecules need specific conditions to be kept in their active form. If they are exposed to air for too long or stored at the wrong temperature, they degrade and become less useful. One recent example are the COVID-19 vaccines using RNA, a piece of genetic code. In contrast to traditional vaccines, these RNA vaccines need to be stored at low temperatures, otherwise the genetic code in them becomes ineffective. This is where drug delivery technology is really important. It can protect unstable molecules and keep them effective for longer and in a wider range of conditions.
The primary link between SiSaf and Good Science Beauty products appears to be Silicon. Can you talk about the role it plays in skin care and pharmaceuticals?
At SiSaf, we developed and patented a unique Bio-Courier system that’s based on porous elemental Silicon. Its structure is similar to a honeycomb, and we wrap it in lipids and amino acids. We attach to the Silicon particles ingredients that are good for the skin. As the Silicon naturally breaks down, it releases the ingredients over time. It also releases the Silicon itself, an essential micronutrient mineral that’s connected with collagen synthesis.
We use a similar delivery technology for medicines, which sets us apart from a typical beauty brand. We constantly improve our formulas, just like a tech company. In the cosmetics industry, companies will often create new products where only the branding is innovative and most life science companies commit to one innovation, but this isn’t the case for SiSaf and Good Science Beauty. Science and technology won't stop moving forward, so our products won’t either. We listen and we learn from each other, other scientists, and our customers every day to develop cutting-edge products.