“Sharing the untapped marvels of Colombian nature to improve the lives of people around the world”
German Schäfer speaks with a passion that moves anyone who is listening. He is energetic and straightforward, crucial qualities for someone who is both a scientist and an entrepreneur. Schäfer is currently a visiting scientist at Purdue's Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering. But if he were to be defined, we would have to say that, above all, he is someone who loves Colombia.
In 2004 German decided to found his startup, Bioprocol –Biodiverse Chemistry. The company develops cosmetic and pharmaceutical products based on a responsible and sustainable use of Colombian biodiversity. German has stated that all of the processes carried out by Bioprocol are based on “good agricultural practices, sustainability, social responsibility and benefits-sharing principles to propagate and harvest the raw materials”. These principles lie at the heart of German’s worldview. He intends for this project to benefit his country and to foster scientific development nationwide.
German is a doctoral candidate in Chemical Engineering at Universidad de Antioquia in Medellín, Colombia. With a combination of his scientific training and entrepreneur mentality, he created the brand IDONA –Ideas of Nature, which markets all-natural skin care luxury products, made from super fruits native to Colombia. IDONA has already caught the eye of many scientists around the world, as well as many big cosmetic firms. It has also been an important focus of attention at international cosmetic events, such as the Cosmoprof Worldwide Bologna and in-cosmetics Paris.
Bioprocol obtains bioactive substances from plants that were thought to be useless weeds. Their unique composition may be used as the basis for medicines, vaccines, and nutrients designed for humans and animals. These natural substances may help cure diseases such as leishmaniasis, and even skin cancer, among other dermatological problems.
A couple of years ago, Bioprocol signed a contract with the Colombian government to sustainably use biological and genetic resources for scientific and commercial purposes. It was the first time that a Colombian company signed such an agreement. On the side of the government, the gesture is part of a larger policy that seeks to place the country among the highest quality manufacturers and exporters of cosmetic products.
During his time at Purdue, German has been working with Dr. Michael Ladisch, Distinguished Professor of Agricultural and Biological Engineering and Director of the Laboratory of Renewable Resources Engineering (LORRE). Their goal is to refine some of Bioprocol’s products, and to perfect the technology behind them. But that’s only part of what German has been doing. He has also been working with Greg Deason, Senior Vice President and Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, John Hanak, Director of Purdue Ventures, and Tim Peoples, Managing Director of Purdue Foundry, at the Purdue Foundry (created to help Purdue people move ideas to the marketplace). The idea is for German to get advice from leading business experts to commercialize Bioprocol’s products in the most efficient way possible in the United States and globally.
Schäfer, as passionate as he is, will lead his projects successfully, no doubt. His colleagues, mentors, and friends at Purdue walk alongside him, ensuring he gets all the help he needs. German acknowledges with a smile that, at Purdue, he has found the support he needed. “This is the right place for me to reach my goals”, he says, as his eyes shine, bursting with new ideas.
German Schäfer (Photo: Bioprocol)