Noble Panacea founders on the science behind their four skincare collection

What happens when a Nobel Prize-winning chemist starts a skincare brand? Sir Fraser Stoddart and Céline Talabaza tell Zaneta Cheng how a serendipitous discovery in the lab led to what could be the world’s most cutting-edge collection of serums, moisturisers, masks and more

Noble Panacea is not your average skincare brand. Not only do its products come in unique single-dose packets targeting everything from dullness and fine lines to moisture loss and hyperpigmentation, but they are also the culmination of four decades of groundbreaking research by a Nobel Prize-winning expert in supramolecular chemistry.

“It’s a story about serendipity,” says Sir Fraser Stoddart, the 81-year-old Scottish-born chemist who launched Noble Panacea in 2019 with a glitzy supermodel- and celebrity-packed party at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. “You’re trying to do something else in a fundamental way, and lord behold you get a result that’s completely different. The analogy I often draw is with Sir Alexander Fleming. I think it was in September 1928 when he discovered that a petri dish with bacteria growing in it had been invaded by a fungus. The point is that it led to the introduction of antibiotics and half of us would not be sitting here today if it hadn’t been for that serendipitous discovery.”

In Noble Panacea’s case, Stoddart – who was awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his decades of research and lifetime contribution to organic chemistry – and his team at Northwestern University stumbled on a framework of biodegradable, renewable carbohydrate and fatty acids that could house and protect ingredients at the individual molecule level. The Organic Super Molecular Vessel (OSMV), as they decided to call it, is 10,000 times smaller than a skin cell and can be programmed to deliver its active ingredients with extreme precision.

“When we looked at potential applications of this discovery, these were some of the areas we might have gone into: pharmaceuticals, the food industry, home care and personal care. We chose personal care because it looked as if it would be the easiest one to enter and, for me, the most exciting one,” Stoddart says.

“Noble Panacea really means universal cure and high moral standards. So it’s about the universality of being able to cure things, and it’s also about the highest moral standards. It’s built on precision, integrity, transparency, and the importance of mentorship and diversity. All of these things have been so important to me and my scientific career. And what makes this product so unique is that it’s about science or chemistry beyond the molecule.”

Indeed, each of Noble Panacea’s four skincare collections – The Exceptional for targeted transformation, The Absolute for renewed luminosity, The Brilliant for glowing radiance and The Elemental for purified, resurfaced skin – are built around the OSMV technology, delivering ingredients such as Vitamin C, retinol, argireline and hyaluronic acid at an exact dosage, location and timing. While most skincare products are completely absorbed immediately after application, those with OSMV are programmed to work during the therapeutic window where a continual and precise dosage is the most potent and effective. At the same time, the OSMV protects the integrity of the active ingredients that might otherwise degrade with exposure to light, oxygen or water.

Stoddart and his team then went one step further, packaging their formulas in single-dose packets rather than the typical plastic or glass containers. “It gives me an enormous amount of satisfaction to be working alongside people who decided to bring this product into the skincare market in what I would say is a totally revolutionary manner,” Stoddart says. “They decided that the packaging that’s normally used is not really appropriate and a lot of it is plastic, which is even more inappropriate. And so there was this very big drive to go green and produce packaging for the modern age that can be considered sustainable. And not only that, but it’s also been crafted in a very beautiful kind of way.”

“We do this because that system of encapsulation is protecting the active ingredients so that they are penetrating deeper into the skin and they are released at a specific moment. We programme every formula to be in a certain sequence with a certain order of release. Either it could be microdosing during the whole day so you get that Vitamin C at a very efficient level but for a long time, or it could be a sleep mask that’s working on releasing the detoxifying ingredients first then regenerating and then soothing and so on,” explains CEO Céline Talabaza.

“If we put this formula into a jar and then you take the risk of it being compromised – either because you’re dipping your finger into it, or because it’s in contact with oxygen and light – then you’re taking the risk of that programming being compromised and that’s not something we want. We want to be extremely precise from the moment you open the dose. You put the formula in your hand, and that whole sequence and release of ingredients kicks off at that very moment. And that we can only ensure if it’s sealed in a daily dose.”

More than protecting the integrity of its technology, Noble Panacea’s signature packaging showcases the brand’s commitment to what it calls “Responsible Beauty”. It consists of a refillable octagonal cylinder- shaped box made of plastic-free, renewable materials and holding up to a month’s supply of 100% recyclable Active Daily Doses. The starch-based boxes also come with a recyclable metal insert, in a nod to the brand’s scientific laboratory roots, while all the cartons, shipping boxes and recycling programme envelopes are made from recyclable FSC-certified paper.

When it comes to its formulas, Noble Panacea uses green and biodegradable processes that are respectful of the environment and create zero waste. It also uses 96 different natural ingredients, and all of its products are 100% free of gluten, parabens, silicones, mineral oil, phthalates, petrolatum, formaldehyde, cocamide DEA, propylene glycol, triclosan, myristyl myristate, gmos, nitrates, SLS and SLES, artificial colourants, synthetic fragrances, essential oils, paraffin, alcohol, ingredients of animal origin, PEG and EDTA.

While many skincare brands can make similar claims, it’s safe to say no one else can offer the same level of penetration and precision that the OSMV provides. The combination of size – lest you forget, each OSMV is 10,000 times smaller than a skin cell – and programmability increases penetration by more than 200% and overall efficacy up to tenfold.

“The beauty of it is that it’s safe and you have a perfectly controlled manner to predict or decide when the OSMVs will open their doors and release the ingredients. So you can start playing in a very precise way with what it is that you want the formula to perform on the skin. And that’s unique. That didn’t exist until today – it’s a patented technology and we are very lucky to be the very first to be able to commercialise it,” says Talabaza.

“I can’t stress too much the fact that this technology, based on science, is a transformative experience for skincare. There’s nothing else that we know of that could come anywhere close to competing with it. The delivery system is exquisite and it’s precise. It’s all that you could ask for,” adds Stoddart, who also acknowledges the importance of how the products can make women feel. “If you look good and you feel good, inside you are uplifted and inspired. It’s a way to think beautifully about yourself and about others.”

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