Singapore beauty startup Sequential creates a DNA face mask that reads your skin’s bacteria count


Scientists-turned-entrepreneurs Albert Dashi, 29, and Dr. Oliver Worsley, 28, are co-founders of Sequential, a beauty startup which has developed the world’s first proprietary face mask that deeply characterises the skin’s genetics and microbiome. Their presentation and technique wowed judges last year at the L’Oréal Innovation Runway startup challenge, and the duo had previously picked up an award for the 2017 Young Entrepreneur Scheme, as well as presented at the Royal Society London (UK), for a similar concept.

Albert and Oliver brainstormed ideas over coffee, while studying for their PHD in genetics, at the Genome Institute of Singapore. “We felt like we needed to do something that is really interesting, but we also want to use our expertise to build something real,” Albert shared.

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They both began market research in Singapore two years ago and soon realised that a large majority of consumers perceived skincare products in the market as being ineffective, especially after having spent copious amount of time and money on beauty products that don’t work. There was also a lack of trust for current products in the market. “We realised from an early stage that we could solve a number of problems, especially in Singapore, where environment factors such as pollution affects our skin… And we’ve been shrouded in haze!” Oliver added.

Dr. Oliver Worsley presenting his deck on Sequential. (PHOTO: Sequential)

The duo went on to design a face mask, but what sets this mask apart from the rest is how it combines the genetics and specifically the microbiome, from a large coverage of the face, thus giving the scientists a full representation of the skin’s health. They can then analyse data taken from the mask after a user has worn it, which will indicate the diversity of ‘good’ bacteria found on the face, genetic variants of the host, as well as general health of the user’s skin. Analysed results are then compiled into a consumer-friendly report for the individual, and a personalisation guide is also given to the clinic or cosmetic company they partner with.

“What we want to ultimately come to, is to generate a formulation of what is good and suitable for your skin, and what you need to do for your skin based on what we detected. That’s why working with clinics, or aesthetic clinics – where they already have their own portfolio of products they can use – we can then advise them… the proper time to use their products, on top of having this detection concept. Together with this mask, we can hone in their expertise and to build a formulation that is suitable for you,” Oliver explained further.

Albert talking to interested parties. (PHOTO: Sequential)

The name of their company, Sequential, comes from the understanding of a DNA sequence. Oliver explained: “At the very start, the idea was that the R&D was based on the sequencing of DNA, and that’s the kind of language that we work in it. It’s four letters that make up our DNA, and you understand that by putting it through a machine and reading every letter on this molecule.” It also relates to the changing environments for the skin, the change in microbiome diversity, and the ‘sequential’ improvements in product recommendation.

Amidst the business talk, both Albert and Oliver revealed a lighter side of themselves in sharing some of the names that didn’t make the cut. “We came up with so many names! One of them was a Japanese name, Hanako, which is the longest living fish in Japan, but a little more research, we also realised it was a name of a ghost,” Albert cringed while relating that story.

Both men are equally adept at their respective roles. Albert is responsible for R&D, while Oliver works on business development. “I have always been interested in business development, and Albert is passionate about the R&D segment, the product development areas of Sequential. But we’re both at this stage, two scientists looking to convert this into a commercial idea,” Oliver added.

The soft-spoken Albert is happy to expand on research work, as being in the lab gives him joy. “Innovation is something that interests me a lot, and develop(ing) new technology that will help people in the long run.”

When they are both not busy working in the lab or meeting potential clients, Oliver and Albert try to have an active lifestyle outside of work. Albert can be found outdoors near Sentosa,

representing Singapore Paddling Club, while Oliver enjoys long distance swimming, cycling and running races. “Having a good amount of outdoors and combining physical and mental challenges – which has been the PhD – is good for the both of us,” Oliver shared.

For now, Sequential is trialling with Asian and European partners, and currently looking for investment to expand internationally. Both scientists are also being advised by Dr. Paola de Sessions, a microbiome expert, and advisor Mike Matthews, a business mentor.

For more information on Sequential, log on to: https://www.sequentialskin.com/

 



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