Michael York was appointed CEO of Senté Labs in July 2013. With over 20 years of experience in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry, working in positions from general management, marketing, sales, finance, and operations, he is clearly a man who knows how to succeed in this extremely competitive market. While his considerable experience makes it clear why Senté would want him on board, I am interested in finding out what attracted Michael to Senté.
‘What attracted me was the technology, the people, and the opportunity, not just in the market, but the opportunity to build something special. I’ve always been attracted to products with good science behind them and help healthcare providers looking to make a difference. I saw these qualities within Senté Labs and when I spoke to the board and the scientists in the community I was very impressed,’ he explained.
The science and opportunity Michael refers to is currently based on Senté’s Dermal Repair cream, the only topical cosmeceutical using low molecular weight heparan sulphate in its formulations. Heparan sulphate is a glycoprotein found naturally in the skin that can bind to water a thousand times its own molecular weight. It performs a number of useful anti‑ageing tasks, including assisting with collagen synthesis, providing hydration, and helping maintain the skin. However, as we get older, and through the effects of pollution and UV rays, the levels of heparan sulphate in our skin decreases, which results in the visible signs of ageing.
Senté’s Dermal Repair cream helps the skin to appear rested, smooth, and more vibrant. The glycoprotein provides long‑lasting benefits by moisturising the skin and concealing the skin’s natural age‑related loss of skin elasticity and tone.
While Michael believes the science behind a lot of topical skincare can be uneven, he found the science supporting the use of heparan sulphate to be so compelling, it convinced him a product line and company could be built around it.
At the time, heparan sulphate had been used for years in the treatment of burns and diabetic ulcers in Europe; however, its use in skincare was breaking new ground. It was Senté, along with the University of California, San Diego, that developed a formulation that had a low molecular weight and could pass through the skin.
Senté now has the exclusive global licence for using low-molecular weight heparan sulphate in topical skincare, and the technology is gathering admirers.
‘The scientific community is now embracing heparan sulphate. I’ve spoken to a lot of dermatologists, and they’re enthusiastic about a new science-based product entering the market, and that makes me excited to see that there is a desire for our product among the professionals.’
There’s no denying cosmeceuticals is a huge market; with the ageing population, growing affluence and increase in demand for products, the global cosmeceutical market is estimated to soon be worth over $30 billion. Michael and the board at Senté believe they have the right plan to maximise the potential of heparan sulphate and Senté in this growing market.
‘We have a comprehensive plan to grow the company, and we’re focused on short- and long‑term goals. In the short-term it’s about growing revenue,’ he explained.
‘We have to grow the revenue to meet our other goals, which is investing in the product lines, tools, and office support. To grow the market we need to educate the community on heparan sulphate. It’s widely distributed in the skin and like collagen, is critical for cell volume, hydration and works with growth factors to synthesise collagen. A lot of health professionals have forgotten about the benefits of heparan sulphate and we need to re-educate them on the benefits of the product,’ he continued.
Unfortunately, physicians are often too busy to be familiar with every new product that comes on the market. This can lead to consumers conducting their own research and often believing misinformation or placing their faith in a product that will not produce the results they expect. Michael believes this is where Senté can help both the physician and, in turn, the consumer, by visiting physicians and supplying them with the tools and resources they need to understand the benefits of heparan sulphate and how to effectively use the Dermal Repair cream.
One of the methods they are using to achieve this is by initiating ‘trial and stay’ programmes in physician offices to increase awareness among physicians and their customers. The programme works by allowing customers to try the Dermal Repair cream for free, and once they begin to see the benefits they will want to continue using the product. The success of the programme can be attributed to the speed at which customers can see results. Unlike other topical anti-ageing agents, which can take weeks or months to show any results, Senté’s Dermal Repair cream is designed to soothe the skin and reduce redness and irritation almost immediately. This also makes the product ideal for post-procedure applications in the physician’s office.
The ‘trial and stay’ programmes also provide physicians with training and tools on how to use the product, as well as patient training tools so they can then educate their customers on the benefits of the product, manage expectations on what they can expect, and teach them how to use the product.
‘In the short-term we want to educate the community on what heparan sulphate brings to the market. Helping people find it, try it, and build the product line as quickly as we can to feed the growth and market need,’ explained Michael.
Alongside physician education, Senté has taken other steps to increase market awareness and help drive revenue. The company recently deployed a sales team focused on key metropolitan areas to increase uptake and educate the professional community on the benefits of heparan sulphate.
Getting through the noise
‘No other company in the US can use our proprietary formulations for a topical based skin repair cream with low molecular weight heparan sulphate,’ Michael said confidently when we begin discussing how Senté sets itself apart in an extremely noisy market.
Exclusive rights to heparan sulphate will surely be a significant factor in Senté Labs continuing success, but Michael and Senté understand they have to do more if they want to set themselves apart from their competition and build a successful product line and company.
One important factor is the science supporting the use of heparan sulphate. Michael and Senté understand that the more they invest in research and gathering supporting evidence, the more confidence the physicians and other health professionals will have recommending Senté products to customers. Currently, Senté conduct both in vivo and in vitro studies to evaluate their formulations.
Another factor in setting themselves apart form their competition, according to Michael, is their customer care and attitude towards the end-user.
‘Our goal is to be more customer-focused than our competitors. This is the personal care industry and the better we are at supporting end-users and health professionals, educating them and giving them the tools and resources to be successful, the more we’ll separate ourselves from other cosmeceutical companies.’
Looking to the future, Michael and Senté believe the logical move will be to expand the product line and already have new products ready to launch in 2014.
‘We have one product on the market today but given the broad utility of heparan sulphate and what it does, we are in the midst of developing a full product line,’ he said.
‘We will bring out a SPF in the first quarter; a very well put together post‑procedure kit with a more concentrated formulation; new products for other parts of the face; and finally, we are thinking of other products we can bring to the market in a strategy called ‘Beyond the Face’. We look at the needs of the market, what are the benefits of our product and how can we fit our products into the areas of need,’ he continued.
Michael believes Senté have a good plan in place to ensure future growth. It should come as no surprise to hear education is a central component to this plan as Michael has previously mentioned its importance in building confidence and awareness of their products.
‘I think it comes down to three areas. One is getting deeper in the channel, getting more people to use the product and educate them on when and why they should use it. Next, is getting new products into the market to feed growth from the first step. And third, building a global brand and entering new markets in Asia, Europe, and South America,’ he explained.
Despite only being appointed as CEO in July 2013, in just a few short months Michael and Senté have developed a commercial plan, product development plan, and put in place operational infrastructure to ensure the company take the right steps to guarantee long-term success.
‘I’ve really enjoyed the last few months; it has been fun and I’m enjoying working with great people and it’s a great place to be. The people on the board are very experienced and accomplished. They understand how to scale a company and they understand the science.’