Chemical Deformulation vs Reverse Engineering

Learning Centre > Chemical Deformulation vs Reverse Engineering

In this article, we will explore the differences between the two approaches, when you should use them, and the pros and cons of each.

In this article, we will explore the differences between the two approaches, when you should use them, and the pros and cons of each.In this article, we will explore the differences between the two approaches, when you should use them, and the pros and cons of each.

As a product development company, Innovolo often gets asked the question of what the difference is between chemical deformulation and reverse engineering. In this article, we will explore the differences between the two approaches, when you should use them, and the pros and cons of each. We will also give tips on how to get the most out of reverse engineering for your business.

What is Chemical Deformulation?

Firstly, let us explore chemical deformulation. Chemical Deformulation is the process of analyzing the composition of a product and then using this data to guide further research or inform business strategy decisions. It can also be applied to support contract negotiations and understand the intellectual property risk issues of your supply chain partners.

Chemical synthesis and corrosion tests may be conducted to determine the elemental composition of a product. On a larger scale, it is common to use gas chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry, inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectroscopy or inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry instrumentation for chemical analysis.

After obtaining this data, an experienced team can identify degradation pathways and perform informed synthetic chemistry experiments to guide the development of brand new product variants.

Let's look at some examples of chemical deformulation:

1) A client had a bottle of shampoo with a known carcinogenic ingredient. They wanted to find out what was in their supply chain and improve the product safety profile.

2) In an effort to cut costs, a client slashed the amount of active pharmaceutical ingredients used in their drug based on the chemical analysis from their supplier. This led to inadequate efficacy and consistently high rates of attrition during costly clinical trials.

What is Reverse Engineering?

Reverse engineering, on the other hand, is more of a design-based strategy that attempts to identify all individual chemicals that make up a composition. This process is commonly used to compare the formulation of a product against another manufacturer's version, or to support patent infringement cases.

Reverse engineering has also been applied in an effort to analyse the composition of counterfeit products. In this case, it can be useful for checking whether dangerous additives such as arsenic and lead have been added during production (which happens more often than you'd think!).

Reverse engineering can be done by dissolving the material of interest to create a solution, which is then sprayed onto a mass spectrometer. The mass spectrum generated will give information on each molecule present in the sample and its relative quantity within the compound. This allows for the identification of individual chemical components within a composition.

Some examples of reverse engineering:

1) A client wanted to see whether the shampoo formula of their competitor was an illegal copy or had been independently developed. Using X-ray fluorescence, they analysed the bottle and found that it contained the exact same ingredients as their product with no signs of copying. This case closed successfully without any further action.

2) Another client wanted to compare their product with a popular competitor's version, which was also its chief competitor in a particular market segment. Using X-ray fluorescence and near-infrared spectroscopy, they analysed both products and were able to clearly prove that the competitor had copied their formulation as well as their packaging.

How Chemical Deformulation will benefit you?

Identifying who your competitors or supply chain partners are, and understanding the intellectual property risk of your industry is vital for company growth. For example, if you come across a product formulation that contains an ingredient with many years left before it becomes obsolete, there may be a significant opportunity to work with this supplier to create a product that contains your additive of choice.

Conclusion

Reverse engineering and chemical deformulation are very different approaches that help address completely different problems: chemical deformulation allows for brand protection, while reverse engineering is aimed towards identifying the exact components of an existing formulation. Both processes provide valuable information that can be used to guide product development or solve a legal problem.

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