IBA Member Spotlight: Dr. John Ademola


The story of Dr. John Ademola starts in Abeokuta, Nigeria, extends to England, France, Italy, China, Japan, South Korea, Washington, DC, and California.

With an academic background and over 20 years of product innovation, ingredient research, and platform development for clinical testing, John Ademola, Ph.D., brings a wealth of expertise, curiosity, and business acumen to his current role as co-founder of the San Francisco Research Institute.
Focused on “connecting companies to the needs of multi-generational, multicultural, and global consumer markets,” the original Dermatology research program was founded 25 years ago by eminent UCSF scientists and professionals, including Dr. John Ademola and well-known pioneers in dermatology and biomedical, clinical research. The company expanded to other therapeutic areas within the last five years. SFRI was established in January 2020, before Covid became a household name. Since then, he and his team have stayed busy, incorporating solid clinical platform guidance with differentiators based on different ethnic groups.

  • How do these products work in different populations?
  • How to combine this knowledge with an understanding of different cultures?
  • How to test the safety and efficacy of each product linked to different cultures/skin types?

From early days in Nigeria, John Ademola has been on a path of scholarship, observing and passing on his knowledge.

As a youth, he was fortunate to gain a seat in Abeokuta Grammar School, an elite boarding school for children (boys and girls) from Nigeria, African countries, and the British Commonwealth. This school’s discipline and rich curriculum established a strong learning foundation.

A fellowship in England allowed him to enhance his studies even more. Great Britain was granting former colonies independence yet recognized the need to develop a path for well-rounded youth to study, identify their skills and interests, and engage them in leadership early. This Commonwealth scholarship exposed him to an international environment. He was exposed to many different cultural groups, ways of life, and nationalities. Later his roommate from Singapore would say that he had “a global mentality.”

He continued building his interest in science at the University of Coventry, Warwick, where his research focused on oncology. The university was “like the United Nations” with many ethnic groups represented from many parts of the world, which Dr. Ademola had never experienced before. He quietly considered how different cancer therapies and treatments would work for other ethnic groups.
He went back to Nigeria to teach and help pioneer the establishment of a new School of Pharmacy college at Nigeria’s Premier Medical University, University of Ibadan, College of Medicine for three years.

He loved teaching and helping establish a new learning institution.

After a year, he was invited to go to Japan on a Monbusho Scholarship, a prestigious scholarship by the Japanese Ministry of Education. He replied that he was not quite ready to leave Nigeria, partly because he would have to learn Japanese.

At the same time, he was awarded the prestigious Fogarty International Scholarship for health professions in the United States. He postponed his travels while he wrapped up his work in Nigeria. He studied at the University of California – San Francisco School of Pharmacy in America. He loved the research and focused on that for several years, later transferring to the UCSF School of Medicine to study Dermatology. There he worked alongside Dr. Howard Maibach is a noted global researcher and dermatologist.

At UCSF School of Dermatology, Dr. Ademola developed a platform for skincare based on different ethnic groups. Based on the following ideas: What are the main functional, structural, genetic differences in ethnic skin? What are the differences between ethnic groups? How can information be gathered for each group? How can products be developed to fulfill those needs? Reviewers at the university determined such a platform offered no way for the university to ensure funding, so the proposal was rejected. That meant he owned full rights to the ideas and concepts and could develop them later. Once again, the combination of being “ahead of his time” and perseverance paid off.

He has applied his knowledge to many related consumer health and drug product development projects. Now, consumers, drug companies large and small, and government agencies seek to reach different ethnic groups. In stage One, we apply basic skin research, genomic wellness, personal health, food, nutrition, and technology tools, to identify underlying skin, fitness, aging, and consumer health-related conditions. He has consulted and given seminars around the globe. During a two-year engagement in the 90s, he worked for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Focused on business, Dr. Ademola has also found time to provide service to the greater community. He has worked with UNESCO and other non-profits. He worked with several politicians in Washington, D.C., to transfer certain technologies to Nigeria and helped in several peace-making initiatives.
To the newcomer to the beauty industry or any industry, Dr. Ademola recommends, “Watch what your colleagues do and how things are done in the industry.” Then ask yourself, “What skills do I have to make things go differently?” Incorporate your skills and knowledge, pay attention to your environment, be alert to changes, yet own some ideas.” Research, Observe and Act.

To that young boy in Nigeria, John Ademola would paint a picture of global reach, saying, “The world is my home and California is my base.”

Read More Conversations