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A career built on honey

Pharmacist Franciane Marquele de Oliveira worked as a researcher and professor before starting her own business

PERSONAL ARCHIVEFranciane Marquele de Oliveira has a penchant for shifting between academic and business environments. Born in Santo André, São Paulo, she grew up in the nearby town of Araras, where she studied pharmacy at Hermínio Ometto University. She graduated in 2001, and began working at the old Zurita Laboratory in Araras soon after. “I was responsible for assessing suppliers and establishing validation protocols,” she says. She then returned to her studies, moving to Ribeirão Preto, São Paulo, and beginning her master’s degree at the University of São Paulo’s Ribeirão Preto School of Pharmaceutical Sciences (FCFRP-USP). It did not take long for her research career to take off.

About a year after starting her master’s degree, she wrote and published her first scientific article in the Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Analysis. The study involved evaluating the antioxidant activity of propolis (a resin produced by bees to seal and sterilize their hives) in topical pharmaceutical formulations.

Her research and the article were well received in her field, enabling her to extend her master’s degree directly into a doctorate at the same institution. After completing her doctorate in 2007, Marquele de Oliveira took two postdoctoral fellowships at FCFRP-USP with a focus on nanotechnology, before beginning her teaching career. She started teaching pharmaceutical technology as part of the pharmacy course at Paulista University (UNIP) in Ribeirão Preto. In 2012, she was invited to work as an associate researcher on innovative projects at Apis Flora, a company that produces medicines based on honey, propolis, and natural products.

At first, she tried to balance the duties of teaching at the university while also working as a researcher at the company, but the situation soon became unsustainable. “With two children at home, I decided to dedicate myself exclusively to Apis Flora,” she says. As she became involved in new stages of the pharmaceutical research and development process, she realized that she could extend the company’s operations to other types of compounds. Together with Andresa Aparecida Berretta e Silva, the research, development, and innovation (RD&I) manager at Apis Flora, she created a business plan for a new startup and presented it to the owner of the company, who approved the project.

And so they founded Eleve Pesquisa e Desenvolvimento, incubated by Apis Flora. The startup company is designing innovative new drug-delivery systems based on expired patents. “This is how we started developing a drug to treat leishmaniasis,” she says. The aim is to encapsulate the drug so that it is released at a specific target, reducing the side effects of the treatment. On another front, the company is investing in a type of laboratory-grown skin that could replace animals in cosmetic tests.