Futures 100 Innovators Award

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AJ Addae

Chemical biology graduate student AJ Addae (Paul S. Weiss group) wins second place in the 2023 Future 100 Innovators Awards.

Each month in 2023 The Future Laboratory analysts chose 10 Innovators disrupting lifestyle categories in 2023 & beyond. On October 20th they announced the finalists, and awarded the top three.

Before coming to UCLA, Addae founded SULA LABS, a research and development laboratory that specializes in developing and clinically testing cosmetics for individuals with darker skin tones. She joined UCLA’s chemical biology graduate program in 2022, working in the group of Professor Paul S. Weiss, where she is studying the surface functionalization of metal oxide-based UV attenuators at the nanoscale for use in sunscreen formulations. Her work in the Weiss lab has brought forth collaborations with dermatologists from the medical school, as well as professors from around the world.

Addae recently spoke at the United Nations Economic Commissions for Africa’s Forum of the Alliance of Entrepreneurial Universities in Africa.

Excerpt from The Future Laboratory announcement:

Second Place

AJ Addae is the founder of Sula Labs, an R&D beauty lab that focuses on the needs of Black and dark skinned people, and her work is dedicated to helping others define themselves. With a BSc in molecular biology, her first role in a medical grade lab made her keenly aware that inclusion in the beauty industry needs to start with the people behind the brands, in the nitty gritty of formulation. Sula Labs is named after the titular character in Toni Morrison’s 1973 novel, Sula.

Sula Labs has worked with 11 indie beauty brands on product development and is partnered with almost half of the brands featured in Sephora Accelerate’s 2023 programme. Addae is currently pursuing a PhD in chemical biology at UCLA while also gathering pre-seed funding for Sula Labs, a move that will enable it to broaden in-house capabilities and create an R&D experience that appeals to even more businesses.

By ensuring that Black people are involved at the beginning of the product development process, Addae is challenging the way diversity is understood in beauty. Sula Labs is showing the industry that true inclusivity starts with ingredients, formulas and chemists that bring the needs of Black and dark skinned people to the fore.