LONDON — Professor Christofer Toumazou has zero background in beauty, but that has not stopped the award-winning engineer and inventor from launching Geneu, a skin-care brand involving a quick DNA test that takes place on a microchip.
Toumazou, Regius Professor of Engineering at Imperial College London and a Fellow of the Royal Society, has used microchip technology to mimic and replace biological functions, creating cochlear implants for children born deaf; artificial pancreases for people with type 1 diabetes, and wireless heart monitors that track patients’ health before and after operations.
He is now turning his attention from medicine to skin care. At the brand’s new store on New Bond Street in London, customers wondering whether their skin will age in the same way their mother’s or father’s did, or what toll cigarettes, pollution and sunbathing will take on their faces will be asked for a mouth swab and a brief lifestyle description.
In return for a little spit, customers receive a targeted “Geneu U-Plus” genetic profile and advice about which of the brand’s serums best suit their skin type. The service costs 600 pounds, or $990, which includes the test and a two-week supply of two antiaging serums.
Geneu’s assistants — who have science-related Ph.D.s — use a microchip created by Toumazou, to work up genetic profiles pertaining to the natural predisposition of an individual’s skin to collagen breakdown, her skin’s antioxidant protection levels and its ability to fight off free radicals.
The Geneu assistants then select a combination of serums: The first is aimed at enhancing natural antioxidant levels, while the second has SPF 15 and is aimed at boosting natural collagen levels and smoothing the appearance of lines and wrinkles. It also acts as a primer.
“We’re applying medical technology to the consumer, creating a cosmetic that concentrates on skin DNA,” said Toumazou during an interview in his office at Imperial College London, a prestigious public research university that specializes in science, engineering, medicine and business.
The DNA test takes 30 minutes. The samples never leave the lab and are later destroyed.
In June, Toumazou won the European Inventor of the Year award for creating the DNA “Beautylab on a microchip” technology, which is used in the test.
Toumazou’s partner on the project is musician Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran, who is Geneu’s creative director. “In one way, we’re a slightly unlikely couple,” said Rhodes with a laugh during the interview.
“I’ve been interested in science since I was a kid,” he said, “and I have to admit, I’ve spent some of my lifetime in front of a mirror. It’s been fun to build this business from the base up.”
The serums are stored in disposable cartridges that slip into shiny black or white cases that bear the Geneu U-Plus branding, which was designed by Rhodes.