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Cosmetics Pioneer Dia Pharma Aims for U.S. Expansion

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Article - March 13, 2024

Creator of the popular SOLinGEL patch, Dia Pharmaceutical is a pioneer in cosmetics technologies in Japan and is now targeting greater distribution in the U.S. marketplace.

Since its foundation 85 years ago, Dia Pharmaceutical has conducted in-house research and development of pharmaceuticals and other products for the health and beauty sector, during which time the global sector has transformed and flourished.

The company is the pioneer behind SOLinGEL, a water-soluble polymer technology that differs from conventional health patches as it combines a gel agent with excellent heat resistance and shape retention. The transdermal absorption-type skin adhesive that was developed using this technology opened a new market in the pharmaceutical industry and gave birth to new cosmetic and sundry products such as the "cosmetics patch" and "healthcare patch".

“Patches have been around in Japan for quite some time. In the past, people used to mix flour and vinegar and apply it to the skin,” explains Shinji Morikane, Chairman of Dia Pharmaceutical.

At that time, cataplasms were mainly distributed in the market as sol types, so they were unable to maintain their shape. During transportation, there were cases where the sol melted due to the influence of excessive heat, which was a big problem. To solve this issue, pharmaceutical companies at the time began developing gel-type patches. However, these patches had a weakness. They were hard to attach to the skin.

“Our main product back then was an ointment for athlete’s foot. We only had one employee at that time and were even told by the regulator that we could not survive in the pharmaceutical market so we should divest our business to someone else. Back then, I thought that if we overcame the weaknesses of the patches, then we would be able to compete in the market. I spent 10 years developing new types of patches incorporating both the strengths of sol and the strengths of gel. That technology is now called SOLinGEL,” says Mr. Morikane.

Today, the lines between medical remedies and treatments are beginning to blur. As a result, many people are deciding to opt for over-the-counter medicines and treatments rather than physically going to see a doctor, a trend which naturally exploded during the  COVID-19 pandemic. This has led companies like Dia Pharma to put greater focus on cosmetics over pharmaceutical products.

“Whilst our main product used to be pharmaceutical patches, our focus has now shifted to cooling gel sheets to diversify ourselves. We still produce pharmaceutical patches. However, we are now focusing on the cosmetics field using the technology we have developed. Our face mask was the first product that we applied the technology to. We started producing cooling gel sheets first. After three years, we moved on to attaching cosmetics which were the first of their kind in the world. Initially, they were compared to Jason from the movie Friday the 13th!  However, they are now being used in many countries around the world.”

Going forward, finding partners for the distribution of its products overseas is an objective for Dia Pharma, which has already earned a distribution deal with French pharmaceutical multinational, Pierre Fabre.  “Thanks to this deal, we received a lot of credibility and have been able to establish a presence in the European markets including Italy and the U.K. However, the U.S. is our biggest target now, as it has the largest target market,” says Mr. Morikane.

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