Stomach Drops and Cooking Spray: Hofmann & Sommer researches active substances in drugs, food and cosmetics in Adlershof

26. October 2017

Stomach Drops and Cooking Spray

Hofmann & Sommer researches active substances in drugs, food and cosmetics in Adlershof

Hofmann & Sommer. Bild: © Adlershof Journal

Hans-Peter Welzel, scientific director of Hofmann & Sommer, and staff member Marcus Ludwig, pharmacist

While the history of Hofmann & Sommer hails back to 1906 in Königsee-Rottenbach in Thuringia, the company’s research department is an Adlershof youngster. For two years now, the department has been experimenting on disinfectants, homeopathic substances, drugs and more.

“In Virchow’s opinion, the body was not a zoo. Turns out it actually is,” says Professor Hans-Peter Welzel, chemists and head of the science department, which consists of five employees and a small number of PhD students. “Why? Because bacteria cling to the tiniest hairs. Also to the skin.” Which is why one of his important projects focuses on the development of nano-iodine – in cooperation with Beuth University. Before, iodine was either available as a tincture or polymer-bound. A tincture always contains alcohol, which stings in the wound. On the other hand, solid iodine is not as effective. “We have developed a stable nano-emulsion. Due to its tiny particles, it is very effective and doesn’t sting,” says the professor.

Hofmann & Sommer conducts basic research in Adlershof. This usually means that five to ten years go by and millions are spent before a new product enters the market. Approval procedures are difficult, especially for a medium-sized company. Welzel: “Sometimes the result is not a new product, but new insights. We collect these experiences to have something in the drawer, which we can pull out to release a new or improved product when the time is right.” One of those improved products is “Cidegol”, a product based on chlorhexidine for rinsing out the mouth and throat. It is effective against bacteria without being antibiotic. The substance affects the bacteria’s protein shell, severely damaging them. The bacteria are unable to develop resistances against it. For this reason, it is also used as a preservative in cosmetics.

“Our competition is big and international – we are still producing many things manually and with traditional recipes,” says Philipp Beyer, the company’s head of marketing. Products like the “Dreierlei-Tropfen” for stomach problems are up against famous bestsellers of large corporations, or “Cidegol” against much more well-known chlorhexidine drugs. However, the resourceful company has renewed itself again and again, has just opened its own Amazon shop and persistently focuses on customers in Central Germany and Berlin.

What goes on at the company’s high-tech location in Johann-Hittorf-Strasse 8, is not what one would expect. Nothing snaps, crackles or smells. Quite the contrary: everything is clean and quiet. During our visit, we witness an experiment on a high-performance liquid chromatography, (HPLC) in the physics lab. Under body temperature conditions, the team aims at assessing the concentration at which various drugs can be released in endogenous cells. This is crucial because releasing too much can be poisonous, releasing too little simply ineffective.

At the same time in the chemical lab, they are developing a novel product which may be prescribed by dentists to patients with inflammatory gingival. Small blue plates with a thin coating store go in a so-called Desiccator, which slowly pulls out the liquid.

The scientists are cautious not to give away too much. Plagiarising is widespread in the biochemistry industry. New products must be quickly patented.

Sprays and tinctures for problems with the stomach, eyes, ears and throat, mostly disinfectants for inside and outside, are only a small part of what the researchers are working on. They are also tinkering with nutritional supplements, cosmetics and even a saffron-based cooking spray. The latter is developed in cooperation with a Thuringian saffron farmer. The spice is well-known in the healing arts. It elevates the mood and enhances the libido.

Welzel likes to try new things and supports his young staff to do the same: “Here in Adlershof, we will extend our portfolio, improve quality and create new products.”

By Kathrin Reisinger for Adlershof Journal

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