Biomimicry literally means the imitation (latin – mimesis) of life (latin – bios) or a natural process. By understanding and observing naturally occurring processes new solutions and systems can be discovered or devised that are more organic, safer or less intrusive, particularly in the field of science, medicine and therapeutics.

Biomimicry of the human tanning response

For example, the human tanning response is a reaction to damage caused to the skin by UV radiation. The end result is increased photoprotection through increased melanin (eumelanin) in the skin, but significant damage must be caused to elicit this response.

Afamelanotide’s mechanism of action is a form of biomimicry. The drug is a synthesised and optimised analogue of the hormone (natural α-MSH) produced and released when skin cells are damaged by UV radiation. Afamelanotide triggers the tanning response, delivering an increase in melanin (eumelanin) production, resulting in heightened photoprotection. As a synthetic hormone that is administered, rather than provoked by damage, afamelanotide delivers the beneficial effect of the tanning response (photoprotection), and removes the need for UV skin damage as the catalyst or cause.