German chemical giant BASF says that 50% of all ‘sun care’ products sold today contain its organic UV-A filters
German chemical giant BASF says that 50% of all ‘sun care’ products sold today contain its organic UV-A filters. Speaking at a press conference at the BASF headquarters in Ludwigshafen, Germany, Dietmar Hueglin, vice president for performance materials research, said that sun protection represented a remarkable success story for the company.
BASF launched a series of filters since the early 1990s, starting with Tinosorb S in 1992. Tinosrb M followed in 2003 and Uvinul A Plus in 2005.
Hueglin said that when BASF first moved into this area, there were no filters designed specifically to block UV-A radiation, which has wavelengths in the 320-400nm range and penetrates the skin more deeply than UV-B radiation. Until that point, skin protection products had focused on UV-B radiation (wavelengths in the 280-400nm range), which is the principal cause of skin reddening and sunburn. But in the last 20 years it became clear that both types of UV radiation increase the risk of permanent skin damage and, in particular, skin cancer.
It takes a long time - and considerable investment - to develop such filters, Hueglin said. Typically, six to eight years are needed to take a new compound to approval, and you are unlikely to see significant sales within a decade. For that reason, it’s important to keep the pipeline well stocked. Last year, BASF won approval for a new filter - called DP1 until a trade name is settled - which the company is planning to launch soon. Hueglin says the compound, which has a windmill structure with a 1,3,5-triazine group at the centre and three diphenyl blades, absorbs strongly in the shorter wavelength part of the UV-A range, something that hasn’t been seen before.
As a company that aims to ‘create chemistry’, rather than simply manufacture chemicals, BASF is keen to talk up its R&D pedigree. The headline announcement at the conference was the plan to increase R&D expenditure from €1.6 billion in 2011 to €1.7 billion in 2012. But when pushed to give a figure for the value of the BASF pipeline, research executive director Andreas Kreimeyer declined, saying that it was not useful for external stakeholders. Instead, Kreimeyer highlighted the plan to generate, by 2020, annual sales of €30 billion from products with less than 10 years of sales behind them. To achieve this aim, more than 10,000 BASF employees are currently working on R&D projects, of which there are 2800. In addition, the company will redistribute its R&D activity geographically to better serve emerging markets. Kreimeyer said that in 2001 17% of the R&D employees worked outside Europe. Today, the figure is 24%, and he is aiming to conduct 50% of research outside Europe by 2020.