In 2000, she learned that the South Africa Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) Polymer Technology Division had invented a water-soluble polymer gel that functioned as a dermal delivery system – in other words, a gel-like substance that could be liquefied and solidified to absorb and emit ingredients to the skin.
This is when Kerryne, with no formal science training, became a “makeshift” scientist. As she explains, she had no option. The product, the polymer gel, had only been partially developed at the CSIR and the scientists who had worked on it had mostly left the project. So, with a product that definitely had the potential to help her develop her eye product, but with more questions than answers as to how this was going to happen, Kerryne took advantage of the opportunity and negotiated an exclusive license for the technology. She saw the opportunity as the chance she had long been waiting for to create the eye-care product she had always dreamed of.
As the exclusive owner of a licence agreement with the CSIR to commercialise and exploit its polymer technology for the cosmetic sector, she now became a full-time researcher and scientist and devoted all her time and energy to realising her dream.
In an improvised lab on their property, Kerryne and her husband cooked up polymer, experimenting on hundreds of different freeze/thaw cycles. The manufacturing process incorporated multiple freezing, thawing and heating techniques. After six years, countless side jobs, and R3.3 million (US$426,000) funding from 13 different institutions, Kerryne and her husband finally perfected a scalable method for infusing the liquid active ingredients, and then turning the polymer into a gel of the right consistency.
Although the product had been perfected, Kerryne’s problems were not over. She struggled with packaging that was not airtight which meant her products dried out and were limited to a two-month shelf life. After much research into various packaging methods, the food industry provided the answer. Manufacturers in that industry are used to producing airtight, hygienic packaging in all shapes and sizes, she explains.
The purchase of an Ulma thermovac forming machine, which is traditionally used in the food packaging and sealing sector, finally solved the problem. This particular machine, which was imported from Spain, had been customised for eyeSlices® and could package and completely seal the product. At last the eyeSlices® were ready to be marketed.