Cosmeceuticals take centre stage

Fish scale cover

Human health and specialised bio-products was the order of the day at this year’s South Africa edition of the FemBioBiz Acceleration Programme (Season 2) – Phase 1 Business Training and Pitching competition, arranged by SANBio in partnership with the Africa Women Innovation Entrepreneurship Forum (AWIEF).  The event was held in Cape Town on 29-30 May 2018.

Cosmetic Science Formulation student Nomahlubi Nazo is working hard to shape her country’s health challenges around skin anomalies. She has developed a collagen prototype that is expected to not only take the cosmetics industry by storm but the biomedical industry as well.

Upon her first pregnancy, her obstetrician told her that she will be having her baby via caesarean and she feared the visible scar marks that come with the operation. This then inspired her to put her university knowledge to practice by taking fish scale waste and converting it into collagen in order to make biopolymer film that is impregnated with essential oils and vitamins to heal wounds, infections and also provide pain relief.

“First of all I love two piece bikinis and my caesarean scar was painful and also left me feeling self-conscious, and that inspired the topic for my Master’s Degree which got me to explore the world of Polymath and Formulation Science”, she explains. 

Although her collagen is still in its infancy, Nazo is of the view that her collagen product will go beyond being the go-to caesarean scar treatment for post-partum women. 
“I want my product to serve a bigger purpose than just restoring self-confidence and beauty, which is why I want it to also be utilisable for wound healing, like for bed sores, diabetic ulcers and burnt wounds,” she elaborates.

Collagen is a naturally occurring protein which has great tensile strength and is the main component of fascia, cartilage, ligaments, tendon, bone and skin. For cosmetic purposes it is responsible for skin strength and elasticity, it typically moisturizes the skin and helps it appear firmer and smoother. It can also be an effective treatment for arthritis-related pain and inflammation.

Asked why the decision to use of fish scale, the 35-year old said it’s because fish scale collagen has the highest level of extractable collagen - up to 96%, approximately 1.5 times higher than most animal-derived collagens. In addition, the extraction process for fish collagen greatly preserves its triple-helix structure, thus keeping polypeptides and amino acids intact. These proteins naturally complement collagen and make the resulting treatment more effective.

To manufacture her collagen, Nazo works with local fisheries, such as I&J, and fishermen to collect the fish scales which are then formulated into a gel-like substance and injected with drugs such as ibuprofen to help alleviate pain.  

Nazo is one of the 10 participants who were selected to through Phase 2 of the FemBioBiz competition and are determined to rewrite the African narrative, rebranding the continent, and making history in and out of the continent by using Africa’s rich natural resources to address health and nutrition challenges. 
The second phase of the FemBioBiz Acceleration Programme starts on 25June 2018.