Inspiring successful sales strategy of a global healthcare company
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Exeter
Unit of AssessmentPhysics
Summary Impact TypeTechnological
Research Subject Area(s)
Physical Sciences: Optical Physics
Chemical Sciences: Macromolecular and Materials Chemistry, Physical Chemistry (incl. Structural)
Summary of the impact
Natural photonics research by Professor Pete Vukusic at the University of
Exeter was responsible for shaping the successful global communications
strategy of Bausch & Lomb, a world-leading supplier of eye health
products. Drawing on Vukusic's studies into bio-inspiration, Bausch &
Lomb built its core brand messaging for a major new lens product around
the ability of nature to inspire technological breakthroughs. Outreach
campaigns targeting media and optometry professionals took Vukusic's
research to an international audience, raising wider public awareness of
the concept of bio-inspiration. Bausch & Lomb attributed their
subsequent rapid sales growth to Vukusic's work.
Bio-inspiration — the application of processes observed in the natural
world to the design of new technologies — is an increasingly important
stimulus for innovation. Bio-inspired products have become a popular
marketing strategy for manufacturers to attract `conscientious consumers':
those who may be attracted to a particular product due to the perception
that naturally inspired designs are efficient, effective and `natural'.
Research led by Pete Vukusic, Professor in BioPhotonics (joined Exeter
1998) at the University of Exeter's School of Physics and Astronomy seeks
to understand the photonic properties of nanostructures in living systems
[3.1, 3.2], drawing on techniques from across the physical and biological
sciences. The aim is to discover and characterise photonic system designs
that exist in the natural world, which may inspire breakthrough
technological applications [3.3, 3.4, 3.5].
Vukusic's research group at Exeter has advanced a wider understanding of
photonics in biological systems. As an example, the study by Vukusic et
al. (2007) of a small Southeast Asian beetle revealed how its
brilliant whiteness is created by a material only five microns thick
[3.3]. This material is a highly disordered, filament-based photonic solid
that, through optimised spatial arrangement of its scattering centres, has
a quality of whiteness equivalent to commercial paper products upward of
50 times its thickness. The group is now collaborating with the paper
development division of French multinational Imerys Plc to design paper
formulations with less mineral coating making it lighter with consequently
lower product transport costs.
A 2004 paper by Vukusic analysed the nature of the black and unreflective
surfaces of arthropod wings [3.4]. It described the discovery and
characterisation of a significant structural component to the blackness of
some natural surfaces. These `black' structures are aperiodic, in complete
contrast to the structural periodicity causing vivid iridescent colour
that he identified and published in Nature a year earlier [3.1].
The aperiodicity strongly incoherently scatters light, increasing the
light's path-length through the absorbing pigmentation and thereby
enhancing the overall absorption cross-section of the system.
An investigation of several Papilio butterflies [3.5, 3.6] led to
the discovery that the bright wing colouration of this group results from
cooperation between highly fluorescent pigment, a 2D photonic crystal and
a highly tuned distributed Bragg reflector. (Previously, fluorescently
coloured systems and structurally coloured systems were characterised
separately in many different animal phyla; however, none had indicated an
interaction between the nanostructure and emission from the pigment.) This
work successfully demonstrated that the butterflies' wing colouration
exploits high efficiency fluorescence [3.6] from a 2D photonic crystal of
cuticle and air, the design of which prevents emission of light in two
dimensions but assists its emission in the third dimension (namely the
light is emitted upwards and out of the wing towards an observer). The
Bragg reflector located directly beneath the 2D photonic crystal ensures
both the reflection of non-absorbed photons of the correct colour and
upward-redirection of the downward-emitted fluorescence. High visibility
blue/green light emission is achieved through the use of significantly
less fluorescent pigmentation than would otherwise be necessary if this
nanostructure arrangement did not exist. This is a well optimised and
adapted optical system, the light extraction mechanism of which is
analogous to that of the new range of ultra-high efficiency light emitting
The study of these natural designs provided Vukusic with an extensive
understanding of how the power of bio-inspiration could be harnessed for
technology transfer, prompting an approach from one of the world's largest
suppliers of eye health products: Bausch & Lomb.
References to the research
References in bold best indicate the quality of the underpinning
3.1. "Photonic structures in biology", P. Vukusic and J. R. Sambles,
Nature 424, 852-855 (2003).
3.2. "Structural Colour: Now you see it — Now you don't", P. Vukusic, J.
R. Sambles, C. R. Lawrence, and R. J. Wootton, Nature 410, 36
3.3. "Brilliant whiteness in ultrathin beetle scales", P. Vukusic, B.
Hallam, and J. Noyes, Science 315, 348 (2007).
3.4. "Structurally assisted blackness in butterfly scales", P. Vukusic,
J. R. Sambles, and C. R. Lawrence. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B 271,
3.5. "Mimicking the colourful wing scale structure of the Papilio
blumei butterfly", M. Kolle, P. M. Salgard-Cunha, M. R. Scherer, F.
Huang F, P. Vukusic, S. Mahajan, J. J. Baumberg, and U. Steiner, Nat.
Nanotechnol. 5, 511-515 (2010).
3.6. "Biomaterials: Directionally controlled fluorescence emission in
butterflies", P. Vukusic and I. R. Hooper, Science, 310, 1151 (2005).
Details of the impact
Global eye healthcare company Bausch & Lomb drew on the principles of
bio-inspiration to develop a new contact lens solution that mimics the
natural fluids of the human eye. By studying how the eye keeps itself
clean, hydrated and germ-free, it brought together three bio-inspired
innovations to create a unique product: Biotrue™ (http://www.biotrue.co.uk).
It uses a lubricant found naturally in the human eye, matches the pH of
healthy tears and ensures beneficial tear proteins remain active. Based on
a decade of research into bio-inspiration derived from natural photonics,
from 2000 to 2010 [3.1 - 3.6] Vukusic acted as a consultant and advisor
for Bausch & Lomb in the development of the brand positioning and core
messaging of Biotrue. Vukusic helped shape the company's definition of
bio-inspiration, which formed the backbone of the marketing and
communications strategy for the product launch.
From May 2009 to September 2011 Bausch & Lomb's communications
efforts about bio-inspiration were aimed at two key target audiences: eye
care professionals (ophthalmologists, optometrists, and opticians) and
consumers. Through the use and description of examples based on his
research into optical bio-inspiration and photonics in nature, Bausch
& Lomb were convinced of the value of using bio-inspiration as the
platform on which to position the Biotrue brand. Bio-inspiration became an
integral part of the company's core messaging, in its efforts to convey
how the Biotrue product is designed in a completely new and different way
— i.e. `to work more like the eyes'. This resulted in the following brand
"Nature has always inspired new ideas. It's called bio-inspiration.
And it's leading to some of today's biggest breakthroughs — including a
lens care solution that looks for inspiration from the most natural
place — the eye. Biotrue is formulated to work more like the eye."
Specifically to engage with eye care professionals, Bausch & Lomb
drew on a research-based contribution from Vukusic that comprised 16
posters and 154 publications published in 17 countries. This core
messaging on bio-inspiration was delivered to 40,000 eye-care
professionals at 1,000 symposia and seminars in 40 countries [5.1].
Vukusic himself gave 35 presentations on bio-inspiration in the US, UK,
Netherlands, France, Belgium, Russia, Korea, China, Japan and Brazil.
Vukusic authored the introductory feature — An Introduction to
Bio-inspired Design — to a 2010 issue of Contact Lens Spectrum [5.2] and
an additional supplement [5.3], the leading magazine for optometrists,
opticians and ophthalmologists. As part of this communication, Vukusic
also featured in three issues of `Visions' Magazine and one issue of
`Optician' [5.4, 5.5, 5.6 and 5.7].
To reach consumers, a media campaign was instigated following a press
event and was held in New York in May 2010 at which attendees were
introduced to a video created by Vukusic, from which Bausch & Lomb
secured 285 million web impressions for Biotrue in the national print and
broadcast media. This resulted in consumer familiarity with
bio-inspiration and products `inspired by the natural world', rising
sharply over two periods in 2010, as measured by Directions Research Inc.
In Europe, there were 115 articles published that mentioned
bio-inspiration in relation to Bausch & Lomb's product, reaching 29.7
million users in 15 countries. Around 340,000 Asian consumers across eight
countries were reached through Internet Forum Discussions, videos and two
magazine advertorials. Articles about bio-inspiration featuring quotes and
research from Vukusic reached 313,000 readers in Brazil and Argentina. A
Bausch & Lomb video The World of Bio-inspiration, based on
Vukusic's presentations, has been viewed over 29,000 times [5.1]. This led
to a series of industry and professional communication events resulting
`in a unique impact that is unlike any other new product launch from
Bausch & Lomb,' according to the Director of Medical Affairs Global
Vision Care at Bausch & Lomb [5.1]. In June 2010, Vukusic was invited
to a roundtable discussion [5.8], organised by Bausch & Lomb, at the
annual meeting of the American Optometric Association where he gave a
presentation on bio-inspiration based on his research findings.
Illustrating the importance of the bio-inspiration message, one of the
participants, Dr Bruce Anderson, a fellow of the American Academy of
Optometry, observed: `When patients learn a product is bio-inspired, I
believe their confidence in the product increases. They realise there's
research behind it that makes it more compatible with the eye, and they're
more willing to try it and accept it.' The `highlights' website quotes `physicist
Peter Vukusic, PhD, who has done extensive work to bring bio-inspired
products to the market' [5.8].
Summarising the contribution of Vukusic's research to the commercial
success of Biotrue, the Director of Medical Affairs said:
`The launch of Biotrue has been unprecedented in the lens care
solution category. This is largely due to the excellent consulting
support and insightful guidance by Vukusic in leading us during the
development of the bio-inspiration positioning and our communications
plan. Having been introduced to the United States in June 2010, Biotrue
had launched in 35 countries in the Americas, Europe and Asia-Pacific
regions by the end of 2011. In the US, Biotrue's market share growth
after one year was five times faster than the previous best-in-class
launch of a lens care solution. Unique bio-inspired positioning has
contributed to highly incremental volume for Bausch & Lomb lens care
products in total.' [5.1]
Sources to corroborate the impact
5.1. Letter of corroboration — Director, Medical Affairs Global Vision
Care. Bausch & Lomb.
5.2. Contact Lens Spectrum `Bioinspiration, Nature's Best Ideas: Is Eye
Care Next?' Bausch & Lomb. September 2010. References Vukusic p.8
5.3. Contact Lens Spectrum supplement `Bringing New Inspiration to
Contact Lens Care'. Bausch & Lomb. September 2010. References
Vukusic p.3 and 4.
5.4. Visions `Bringing visionary ideas to eye health' Bausch & Lomb.
Spring 2010, issue 8.
References Vukusic p.18.
5.5. Visions `Bringing visionary ideas to eye health' Bausch & Lomb.
Summer 2010, issue 9. References Vukusic p.2.
5.6. Visions `Bringing visionary ideas to eye health' Bausch & Lomb.
Autumn 2010, issue 10. References Vukusic p.10. http://www.bausch.co.za/ecp/-
5.7. Optician Online: Nature of Inspiration `Bio-inspired Design' 4th
September 2010. Cites Vukusic. http://www.opticianonline.net/assets/getAsset.aspx?ItemID=4004
5.8. Highlights from Roundtable discussion `Bringing new inspiration to
contact lens care' Contact lens spectrum 1st September 2010.
Quotes `physicist Peter Vukusic, PhD, who has done extensive work to
bring bio-inspired products to the market'