Wednesday, January 23, 2002

Patents might aid skin care

By Tim Bonfield
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Burn victims. People who get skin grafts after injuries, infections or surgical procedures. Maybe even people with skin cancer or permanent acne blemishes.

        Millions of people with discolored skin might benefit from the gift announced Tuesday from Procter & Gamble to Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.

        The consumer products giant gave the pediatric research center the rights to 32 patents and related intellectual property for the company's “skin pigmentation control technologies.”

        The gift was the 15th of its kind made by Procter & Gamble since 1999, but the first to be awarded in Cincinnati.

        The gift represents a tax break and an act of philanthropy for Procter. It also symbolizes a closer relationship between two local icons.

        “This brings together in partnership two of Cincinnati's great treasures, Procter & Gamble and Children's Hospital,” said Mayor Charlie Luken.

        The donated technology instantly becomes a top research priority for the Skin Sciences Institute at Children's Hospital, launched in 1995 in collaboration with Shriners Hospitals for Children and the University of Cincinnati. The institute studies a wide range of skin care issues, from diaper rash to tissue engineering.

        The P&G technology helps reduce skin darkening, which could help even out the discoloration that can occur after skin damage, said Dr. Marty Visscher, executive director of the institute.

        “We believe the skin pigmentation control technology will have numerous applications, helping millions of people,” said P&G chairman John Pepper.

        The unnamed compound involved was discovered and developed from 1992 to 1995 by three P&G researchers at its Miami Valley Laboratory in Ross: Drs. Kalla Kvalnes, Mitch DeLong and Jim Thompson.

        At first, P&G tested the product as a possible addition to its Olay cosmetics line, said Greg Hillenbrand, manager of the Procter technology donation group. However, further research revealed that the product most likely would need to be produced as a prescription drug.

        That meant the product didn't fit into P&Gs skin care plans. So, like a growing number of corporations nationwide, P&G decided to give the technology to a nonprofit institution.

        Although P&G will claim an as-yet-undisclosed tax credit, the true value of the technology depends on further research.

        “It's probably not worth a dime if we don't commercialize it,” said Dr. Thomas Boat, director of the Children's Hospital Research Foundation.


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