A retrospective of Prof. Wilhelm on the occasion of the 25th birthday of proDERM.
How study volunteers, employees and customers benefit from the modernization.
In the workshop of our Academy we present this innovative method in theory and practice.
We celebrated our anniversary in the ‘Au Quai’ at the Elbe. See some impressions here.
From now on, we will regularly draw a voucher for a training course of the proDERM Academy.
Founding the company 2.0? Yes, really. The dynamic atmosphere right now feels more like a startup than an established company. We are currently dedicated to, among other things, examining all of our processes and optimizing them when possible. We are also investing heavily in expanding and modernizing our facility. A big part of our investment program, our new facility “proDERM Solaris,” has been completed and we recently moved in. Recently hiring talented young professionals just starting their careers as well as people with many years of experience, expanding our capacity in the field of “Multicenter Studies,” planning the expansion of our facility in Elmshorn and implementing various digitalization measures have all contributed to the momentum we are experiencing. To me, it truly feels more like a new company than an anniversary.
All of these changes are intended to offer our employees an appealing working environment and to remain a reliable and preferred partner to our customers for a long time to come.
Despite thoughts of the future, I would like to use our 25th anniversary as an occasion to look back. “It all starts with an idea.” This also applies to the founding of proDERM. My first contact with clinical studies was while studying medicine (“at the other end of the needle,” meaning as a test person in pharmacokinetics studies to boost my finances). Then during my two years as a post doc at the University of San Francisco, in addition to my own research project, I had the incredible opportunity to get to know the world of dermatological studies, particularly as related to tolerability studies, under the tutelage of Prof. Howard Maibach.
Back then contract research in Germany was conducted primarily at universities who handled such studies more as an “aside” to their main work. During my time at the dermatology clinic at the university in Lübeck, I had the chance to conduct a few minor studies and then later manage some as an “aside” to treating patients as well as my teaching and research tasks. Professional service providers who conducted dermatological studies applying international quality standards and produced results on schedule were rare at the time. I recognized the need for such services on the one hand, and on the other hand I become more and more fascinated with clinical research. The work was many-faceted, demanding and covered a wide range. So the idea to found a contract research institute was virtually the logical consequence.
My wife, who had been with me and our first child in San Francisco and had also worked in Howard Maibach’s lab, was enjoying initial success in immunological research in Lübeck. But she was so excited about the idea to found the business that she not only encouraged and supported me, she was also willing to give up basic research and plunge into applied research. Our goal was to join forces and set new standards in the field of dermatological contract research. The idea quickly became a real entity. Since founding the company meant moving from Lübeck to Hamburg, we were in a hurry to take action before our first child started school. The company was then officially founded in May 1994, and on September 27, 1994 the institute opened its doors for the first time.
The name “proDERM” was intended to express our corporate vision. The prefix “pro” stands for professionalism as well as for the Latin word meaning “for” as it relates to dermatology. Really self-explanatory. Our corporate logo requires a little more explanation: the pyramid. A pyramid needs a solid base. Then it is constructed layer by layer to ultimately reach the tip. Solidity, corporate goals geared towards long-term success and the aspiration to provide timeless, reliable, top-quality services are all things that we associate with the pyramid.
And our values go with the logo as well: A sense of responsibility, professionalism, scientific knowledge and reliability – today as good as in 1994. These have always formed the core of our identity – our proDERM DNA.
We have continued to expand our range of services for 25 years, growing more quickly some years and at a moderate pace other years. Although growth is important, we value being perceived as an innovative and reliable partner who applies scientific methods to produce serious results and sets benchmarks in the industry.
It was impossible to plan such success and there was definitely no guarantee. We probably made a lot of mistakes, but overall we have made the right decisions. For me personally, there are three aspects that are important: continuity, change and the people.
Our continuity is primarily apparent in the described identity geared towards high-quality services. Our independence, the very high proportion of regular customers, our commitment to our headquarters in Schenefeld near Hamburg and the loyalty of our employees are also a clear indication of the consistency from which we as a company as well as our customers benefit.
Because we strive towards continuous improvement and growth, change also plays a significant role for the company. The optimized processes mentioned at the beginning of this article are a clear example of this willingness to pursue change. Since the company was founded, there has never really been a time in which we did not question things and seek potential for improvement. This is why we have always been able to successfully adapt to evolving conditions.
For us, continuity and change are not contradictory or mutually exclusive, they are factors that go together in a balanced ratio.
Now let’s look at what is probably the most important aspect of our success thus far: the people. When we founded the company, we focused in our mission statement on the people. “Along with our employees and the help of our test persons, we work for our clients in the best interest of consumers.” There is really nothing new to add to that.
Our employees are an unbelievably energetic mix of different specialist fields, characters and cultures that come together to achieve great things – and they do it day after day. As the owner of this business, this interdisciplinary and dynamic team makes me proud.
We also have a strong affinity with our test persons, some of whom have been loyal to us for many years, coming back again and again to participate in our studies. During this anniversary year, we will reach the point of having enrolled over 225,000 subjects in our studies, and we know for sure that without the trust of our test persons, the review of our past would be very different today.
Last but not least, I would like to sincerely thank our clients. We greatly appreciate the trust and confidence you have shown us as well as your loyalty. Your feedback and suggestions are very important to us. After all, your constructive feedback shows us how to optimize our processes. Please be assured that we do not have any plans to sit back and relax. On the contrary: In pursuing our new course, we will do everything we can now and in the future to remain the preferred contract research institute for all issues related to skin and mucous membranes.
In this spirit,
In this, our anniversary year, we are laying the groundwork for a future in which we remain a preferred partner to our customers and continue as well strengthen our position as a market leader. We have already begun some of the many expansion and modernization measures planned for this year. We would like to tell you about the areas is which we have invested, the innovations we have implemented and how you will benefit from these optimizations.
Antiperspirants and deodorants
We have completely refurbished the area in which we conduct studies on antiperspirants and deodorants. The investments include a new hot-room, new sauna and new exhaust system for testing spray formulas. The temperature in the hot-room can be set between 21 °C and 54 °C and the humidity between 20 % and 50 %, so the room can serve as a climate-controlled room, a hot-room and a super-hot-room.
We have also modernized our sun protection test lab. We have installed our proven Multiport radiation devices in new rooms that meet the requirements of the ISO standard soon to be published. We have also invested in a new whirlpool that we use to determine water resistance. This device meets the anticipated new ISO requirements as well. In vitro determination of UVA protection is already being performed in the new rooms equipped to meet all our needs in the future.
Biophysical hair lab
Our lab for biophysical hair testing has moved to a larger space. It is completely air-conditioned and has several basins in which to work on hair tresses. This has meant a significant increase in capacity in this field.
Test sample logistics and storage
We have reorganized – in terms of both space and structure – logistics and storage of test samples by establishing an area dedicated solely to this purpose. The area is made up of three rooms that are adjacent but separated from one another. They cover the life cycle of a test specimen from the time we receive it, through processing to storage before and during the study. The sample storage section has different air-conditioned areas for cosmetics and pharmaceuticals / medical products and a quarantine area for specimens that have just arrived. Entry to the test sample area and particularly to the storage area is very restrictive and is controlled by an intelligent rights management system.
In addition to the modernization measures and investments mentioned above, we have also created seven additional exam rooms. So now our facility in Schenefeld has 17 multi-purpose rooms in which studies can be conducted. Before beginning a study, the respective rooms are equipped with our portable devices. All of the rooms are equipped with special lamps for standardized clinical assessments of the skin. And they are all either air-conditioned or temperature-controlled.
Our contact center is the back office for recruiting test persons. This is where potential subjects are recruited for studies, usually by phone. The contact center has moved to new rooms that are more comfortable for the employees and give them the quiet they need to talk to potential test persons. By adding false ceilings that absorb sound, we were able to create an atmosphere far removed from that of a typical call center. It is much easier to communicate with test persons now.
Test person guidance
Our business is headquartered in a shopping center visited by about 20,000 people every day. We now have four large facilities in the shopping center. They are close to one another and are even on the same floor. But sometimes our test persons have to move from one area to the next in the course of a study. Since most of our exam rooms are equipped to be multi-functional, studies conducted over time can occur in different rooms.
For all of these reasons, it was important to us to establish a transparent guidance system for our test persons. The system is based on the names of our areas in which in vivo studies are performed: proDERM Solaris and proDERM Luna. We have numbered the exam rooms in these areas. This way the test person can be told upon making the appointment in which room it will take place. Simple maps show the test persons where they have to go. It is now much easier for our test persons to find the right room.
We continued this cosmic nomenclature in our third facility in the shopping center, even though it is not relevant to studies conducted with test persons. proDERM Sirius includes the test sample area, the biophysical hair lab, the contact center mentioned above and a few other areas.
We have also invested in new offices for our employees. Particularly our “Study conducting” department has benefited from this: it used to be in a different building and is now at home in new offices near management. The proximity makes communication and cooperation much easier.
The desire for full hair is – especially for women – a globally pronounced need. In this respect, there are a variety of products whose application should result in ‘fuller hair’. Iryna Kruse addresses this topic with her talk ‘How to assess the appearance of full hair’.This webcast is a recording of her presentation at the HairS-Congress. The ‘Hairs’ is a scientific hair congress, which is organized annually.
Hair is the crown you never take off. Strong, thick and voluminous hair is a main ideal of beauty. However, due to hormonal shifts, stress and the rising pollution hair loss and thinning have become a more common issue. Therefore, products are designed to make hair appear less thin and flat to receive an effect of strong voluminous and fuller looking hair styles, having tension and feeling vital.
Biophysical assessments of hair volume on hair tresses enable objectively measured results on how products like hair shampoos, conditioners, hair styling products and other hair products perform with regards to “volume-increasing”, “long-term styling” or “not-weighing-down” efficacies.
Our aim was to develop a method that is suitable to evaluate the volume-increasing and strengthening efficacy of hair care and styling products that are claimed to make the hair look more.
On the one hand, the well-established method for investigation of hair volume of human hair tresses by is especially designed to determine volume-increasing effects of hair care products. The area of a shadow thrown by a round-bundled hair tress is determined in an angle range of 0° to 180° by image analysis. Since the hair tress is symmetric in rotation, the mean area value is proportional to the volume of systematically increasing numbers of hair fibers. In a further step, the results are compared with benchmark values of untreated tresses of different tress volumes due to different amount of hair. Therefore, the resulting volume assessed is related to the look of different tress weights. Claims like “looks like more hair” can successfully be substantiated with this method.
The same concept was then adapted to the evaluations of hair bending force to evaluate the strengthening effect of hair care products on powerless, flat hair.
Tresses with high hair amount have higher bending force than thin haired tresses. This can be felt by shipping the swatches through the fingers. Styling products which increase the bending force of the hair can therefore mimic the “feel” of more hairs. In our method we match the bending force of a treated tress to untreated tresses with different bending force due to different hair amounts. Claims like “more tension” can be supported by this approach. Shampoo and conditioner products were investigated in this project to show the reproducibility and differentiation between the products.
November 7, 2019
In cooperation with River D, we will host an exclusive seminar dedicated to the topic of Confocal Raman Microspectroscopy (CRMs). CRMs is a technology which opens new horizons for anyone engaged in skin-related research. For developers of topically applied products CRMs uplifts the benchmark with regard to in vivo skin research especially in the investigation of in vivo penetration. For marketers CRMs enlarges possibilities in claims support. For research professionals CRMs may be a diagnostoc tool in the first place.
December 2-4, 2019
Cosmetics claims legislation that came into effect in July 2013 is having a profound if not confusing effect on the industry. Many brand owners affected are still unaware of their obligations and the lengths they need to go to reach compliance. This 3 day intensive seminar brings together international recognized experts in the field of claims development, advertising and the law, to provide an in-depth overview of the fundamentals and understanding of current EU-legislation cosmetic claims requirements compliance and what the future holds.
Schedule of the seminar:
• Under the Sun: SPF: static and water-resistant, UVA-Protection and anti-inflammatory claims
• Wet and Smelly: Hot Room and Sniff Testing for evaluation of antiperspirants and deodorants
• Defying Age: How to evaluate wrinkles and other age-related parameters
• Claims Today – What They Are, And Where You Find Them | Theresa Callaghan
• Understanding What the Consumer Really Thinks of Claims | Erik Schipper
• The World of Consumer Testing | Shazia Ginai
• The Microbiome – A 21st Century Claims Challenge | Harald van der Hoeven
• Designing And Using ‘The Clinical Trial’ For Claims | Stephan Bielfeldt
• Producing The Data For Successful Claims | Sylvia Zebrowski
• Claim generation Workshop
• The ‘Free From’ Dilemma | Emma Meredith
• Will Legislation Change What We Can Claim | Emma Meredith
• The Challenges Facing The Responsible Person | Jack Burgess
• Seals & Endorsements – Increasing The Bottom Line | Klaus-P. Wilhelm
• Claims And Advertising – How Do They Make Those Claims? Chris Gummer
On the occasion of our 25th anniversary, we will be giving away Academy vouchers until September 2020 in our regular blog. All you have to do is fill in the following contact form. In case you are the lucky winner, you will be contacted by us at short notice.
Please fill out the form until October 31, 2019.
With the recently completed modernization work and the new branch in Elmshorn, we have completely reorganized ourselves in the field of study execution. You can see from our corresponding floor plans, how we have now structured our labs.