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Using genetics to help women unlock a healthier future at a company with an 80% female workforce

Khilona Natha, a geneticist at Skin Rejuvenation Technologies (SRT), uses science and technology to assist women in “unlocking a healthier future”. Picture: Supplied

Khilona Natha, a geneticist at Skin Rejuvenation Technologies (SRT), uses science and technology to assist women in “unlocking a healthier future”. Picture: Supplied

Published Jul 30, 2022


Johannesburg - Women require assistance of many sorts as they navigate the challenges of daily life.

And this is the mission of Khilona Natha, a geneticist at Skin Rejuvenation Technologies (SRT), who uses science and technology to assist women in “unlocking a healthier future”.

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Natha is part of 80% female staff at the biotechnology firm, the company behind the renowned optiphi (registered) skincare brand.

Her work centres on genetics and she is responsible for conducting SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism) analysis.

“This entails me analysing certain markers in a person’s genes to assess the genetic risk they may carry for developing various skin and health concerns,” Natha told “The Saturday Star” this week.

“After analysing and interpreting the data, I then communicate this information to the clients in a simplified and relatable way that empowers them to make healthier choices to improve their overall well-being.”

Natha also conducts research and develops new product offerings as health care becomes increasingly personalised.

Khilona Natha, a geneticist at Skin Rejuvenation Technologies (SRT), uses science and technology to assist women in “unlocking a healthier future”. Picture: Supplied

Natha is passionate about her work and believes that she is in the right place to help women.

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“By helping women take care of themselves, we empower them to be their very best in whatever role they are filling,” she said.

Natha said that genes play a vital role in predicting health status, and by understanding what lies within this code an individual’s well-being can be improved.

“The optiphi Helix tests are all about putting the power and control back in your hands. Women experience many different pressures juggling many roles in life and are often more conscious of their health and skincare.

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“The optiphi Helix tests cut out the guesswork by providing relatable and actionable recommendations in their hands that they can immediately use to start taking care of their body, health and skin,” she said.

Natha is proud to work at an organisation that employs women in the vast majority, with many in senior and managerial positions.

“Seeing these beautiful, strong women conducting themselves in their respective senior roles is truly something to be proud of as a fellow woman, and more so to aspire to,” she said.

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“Not only do they set excellent examples of what we can achieve, they bring a sense of community to the table and there is a certain understanding and empathy that comes with working with predominantly female staff, and we encourage and ensure each other to remember that we are capable of achieving stellar success.”

Natha said as a woman working in the science and technology field, which has predominantly been a space for men, it has not always been plain sailing.

“Being a female in this field of work comes with its challenges of not being taken seriously, not being heard or even losing self-confidence in your own capabilities.

“‘But given that the field of science has now flipped on the table in that more and more women are entering this career, you always have a cheerleader to pick you up again.”

She hopes that many more young girls will now enter this space.

“Science has been a field that has been dominated by males for a long time, but women are starting to lead scientific advances and I encourage young girls to leave their stamp on the world by asking questions and being the brave ones to find the answers.”

SRT prides itself on nurturing talent in the highly competitive science and technology fields. As the nation is set to commemorate Women’s Month in August, the company is aware of the responsibility it has in developing and encouraging young women and girls who are interested in entering scientific fields. They regularly invite high school pupils to spend time shadowing the various departments within the company. They also offer bursaries and learnerships to encourage youth development and take on young science graduates in paid internship roles, allowing them to experience various fields of science to find their niche.

Some of the leading women from Skin Rejuvenation Technologies. Picture: Supplied

Here are some other inspiring profiles of the women from Skin Rejuvenation Technologies:

Dr Xandra van Heerden, SRT general manager

At just 32 years old, Van Heerden is already steering the SRT ship. She has a PhD in Chemical Engineering, is a former part-time senior lecturer at the University of Pretoria and is also an R&D engineer.

Her duties include managing the SRT teams to ensure all processes run smoothly and is involved in all of the various departments within the company. Van Heerden’s scientific background and problem-solving abilities have also given her the unique skill set she needs to lead the team.

Danielle de Villiers, group business development manager

De Villiers’s lifelong fascination with science led to an Honours degree in Genetics and a Master’s degree in Medical Immunology. As an experienced project manager, she works across all five biotechnology companies under the Southern Group of Companies portfolio in areas of product research, design and training.

Shalene Bothma, research and development scientist

With an MSc Chemistry degree, Bothma, who is completing her PhD in Chemistry, plays a fundamental role in product development, ingredient research and product formulation. She is responsible for the research that goes into creating new products, testing their clinical efficacy and developing formulations.

Tebogo Bayi, procurement manager

Bayi studied a BSc in Medical Sciences and an Honours degree in Human Cell Biology, qualifications that gave her a much deeper understanding of the items she works with. As procurement manager, Bayi is responsible for sourcing and purchasing the raw materials, laboratory consumables and packaging required to bring optiphi products to life.

Subashni Pillay, group HR manager

The glue that holds the Southern Group of Companies together, Pillay oversees the human resources for all 160 staff across the five companies. She recently completed her degree in Business Administration, with the bulk of her studies being done while working for the company.

The Saturday Star