Frank Ruttens, Key Account Manager
The COO of a multinational consumer goods company was going through the email he had received from their R&D department. As the company started working on a new zero-irritation formula for improving one of its current cosmetics product lines, the imminent hurdles for the company were materials analysis and testing. Due to the restrictions on animal testing, the only possible choice was isolated chicken eye test. However, the test was a costly affair, and it would still be unethical. The need of the company was clear; they wanted to work a way around, and their search led them to Agfa-labs. With its open innovation platform for materials and coating research, Agfa-labs helped the corporation in setting up a close replica of the human eye that they used to test the aggressiveness of surfactants on human proteins.
Frank Ruttens, the chief account manager of Agfa-labs, recalls this partnership as a rather unusual one. In his words, Agfa-labs tackled a situation that is “completely out of the scope of its daily business.” He says, “This is not our core business, but the science is so generic that we already had all the necessary equipment in our lab to accomplish this task.”
While this particular engagement was a new experience for Agfa-labs, the true essence of Agfa-Labs’ business process lies in materials research at the Material Technology Centre of its parent organisation, Agfa. With more than 140 well-trained and experienced scientists, up-to-date instrumentation infrastructure, 3000 square meters of chemical labs, 3600 square meters of distinct analytical labs and digital printing and coating labs, Agfa-labs offers a state-of-art research facility for analytical and development services.
One major breakthrough for the company is its ability to monitor the colloidal stability of suspensions and emulsions in its well-equipped lab.
We have developed methodologies that reveal the underlying processes of adsorption/desorption, solubility, and particle-particle interactions
With this approach, Agfa-Labs mitigates any shortcomings and imperfections of pharmaceutical or cosmetic products that might show up as a lack of stability (sedimentation, creaming, or phase separation), discolouration, bad odour, or allergic reaction to the human body. Moreover, Agfa-labs leverages its extensive domain knowledge in rheology, tensiometry, particle characterization, and sedimentometry for decoding chemical composition of ingredients of medicines and cosmetic products.
Ruttens comments, “To this extent, we have developed methodologies that reveal the underlying processes of adsorption/desorption, solubility, and particle-particle interactions.” For example, Agfa-Labs uses Hansen Solubility Parameters to optimize interfacial interactions between compounds in a composition. Practical applications of this approach include testing solvency of cleaning products and uptake of creams by the human skin, in addition to offering resistance to chemical attack by solvents and increasing the shelf life of a suspension, among others. In parallel to its other material testing methods, Agfa-labs’ high-throughput formulation techniques allow clients to unravel the composition of an existing benchmark and reduce time-to-market for the development of new products.
Last year, Agfa-labs expanded its distillation techniques to a higher level of precision. According to Ruttens, the new, improved separation technique can be used at wastewater treatment plants to isolate any catalyst or critical molecule present in the wastewater for their reuse in laboratories.
Looking at the road ahead, Agfa-labs is now planning to expand its services in the domain of ad-hoc services. As a multitude of new pharmaceutical and cosmetic projects are being created, the organization has started to share its experience and knowledge with its clients to direct the projects to maximize ROI. Ruttens notes that with the combined effort of Agfa-labs and its clients—pharmaceutical companies and cosmetic manufacturers—can make a stronger impact with their project than they can make alone.