If you have been watching Thai television, you may already be familiar with the products made by Salvona, a specialty nanotech manufacturer that just opened a brand new factory on Kuser Road in Hamilton. “A few months ago I was on a TV show in Thailand for a product launch,” said Salvona founder and CEO Sam Shefer, pictured at right. “There is no week that goes by that we don’t have a launch of some product or another. It’s very exciting.”
The Far East is one of the biggest markets for the company’s nanospheres, microspheres, and sub-micron spheres, which go into all kinds of cosmetic and dermatological products. But Sam Shefer, founder and CEO of Salvona, says his company’s products can also be found at the local pharmacy and grocery store: companies like Estee Lauder makeup, Clinique makeup, and Speed Stick deodorant are clients of Salvona.
The materials made by Salvona help those products stay on the shelf longer and penetrate skin better. “They enhance the bioavailability of the drug into the deeper layer of skin where they’re needed most,” Shefer says.
Shefer and his late wife Adi founded Salvona in a basement in 1998. Unlike many tech companies in the U.S. 1 corridor that are developing technologies invented in the labs of research universities, everything Salvona makes was developed within the company. Salvona employs about 20 scientists and engineers and holds more than 100 patents. It also draws on the work that Shefer did as a researcher at MIT before founding the company.
The company’s nanospheres are less than a micron, which is 1/150th the diameter of a human hair, or about the size of a bacterium or a smoke particle. Shefer says cosmetic companies like using his products because they enhance shelf life and can aid in exfoliating products and open skin pores. In pharmaceutical products, this allows the delivery of acne drugs for people with sensitive skin who would react badly to conventional products.
Shefer grew up in Israel, where his parents, both survivors of the Auschwitz death camp, worked various jobs. Shefer said his father later completed his education and worked for the government. Shefer studied at Ben-Gurion University of Negev, earning an undergraduate degree in biology, a master’s in biochemistry, and a doctorate in chemical engineering before moving to the U.S. to earn another doctorate in chemical and biomedical engineering at MIT. At MIT, Shefer studied under Robert Langer, an expert on drug delivery systems.
After working as a research assistant at MIT from 1990 through 1994, Shefer worked in R&D at fragrance company IFF before founding Salvona. Shefer says his shift from academia to business came from a desire to bring his ideas directly to customers. “I wanted to do something that would bring value to consumers, so I transferred all my knowledge and experience into the discipline of making products,” he says. The company moved to Dayton in 2002, where it stayed until last week.
Shefer didn’t say how much the new factory cost, except to say it was “several millions of dollars” worth of production equipment that will enable Salvona to scale up manufacturing on four different lines. “In addition to this, we have a whole unit to test for microorganisms to make sure our products are sterile and ready to be used on human skin,” he says. “We are now able to produce several metric tons of products per day.” The facility is registered by the FDA and uses the agency’s “Good Manufacturing Practices” guidelines.
The building was formerly occupied by Worldwide Medical Products. It includes a 25,000-square-foot warehouse and two laboratories. One of the labs is equipped to formulate finished products, such as lotions, and test the product on tissues and on human subjects in clinical conditions. Salvona has installed a panoply of instruments to test its product, including a gas chromatograph, a mass spectrometer, thermal analysis systems, and other high-tech gear.
Shefer says the company is hiring and expects to have 50 people, including scientists, engineers, and about 10 operators working there by the end of the year.
Shefer, who lives in East Brunswick, says he picked the Hamilton site because of its location. “Many of our people live around it, and we found the building suitable. Also, the township was very helpful in the process of relocating and remodeling the building to suit our needs.”
Shefer says Salvona is looking for college graduates who are interested in science and engineering. “We are also looking for people with experience and education in business development, customer service, and production,” he says. “We hope to bring some excitement to this area in Hamilton. We are one of the few pharmaceutical and medical device companies in the area, and we are growing.”
Salvona sells its products in Europe, Latin America, Colombia, Brazil, Thailand, China, India, and other places. “We are selling a high level of cosmetic products and dermatological products,” Shefer says.
Salvona LLC, 2521 Kuser Road, Hamilton 08691; 609-655-0173; fax, 609-655-9291. Sam Shefer, CEO. www.salvona.com.