Cipher Pharmaceuticals

Researcher/inventor Alec Falkenham is photographed inside of a tattoo studio.

License Agreement

The idea for Bisphosphonate Liposomal Tattoo Removal cream was born when inventor Alec Falkenham got his first tattoo.

Falkenham was a PhD candidate in pathology studying the healing process of the heart. Prompted by the knowledge gained from his studies, Dr. Falkenham began thinking about the tattoo process from an immune point-of-view. After realizing the potential of a yet-to-be invented topical removal cream, he got to work on developing it as a side project while completing his PhD. The OCIE worked to patent Dr. Falkenham’s BLTR technology and source research funding from Springboard Atlantic and Innovacorp’s Early Stage Commercialization Fund to further develop BLTR.

A tattoo’s staying power is all thanks to a group of white blood cells called macrophages. These cells have an important role to play in the overall immune system — they attack and consume foreign matter that enters the body to protect us from harm. When tattoo ink enters the surface layers of the skin, some macrophages will consume the pigment and bury themselves deeper into the skin. This process entombs the pigment, causing the permanent appearance of the tattoo on your skin.

Laser tattoo removal, the current standard for getting rid of ink, attacks the inactive macrophages with light beams over the course of several sessions. Once the heat destroys the macrophages, the pigment can then be transported through the body and drained appropriately. Though effective, these treatments are also painful, expensive, and can damage surrounding tissue.

Dr. Falkenham’s BLTR technology shows promise as a safer and more affordable option. When the cream is applied, macrophages containing the pigment consume specially designed liposomes that act as the drug delivery system. When other macrophages come to remove the foreign liposomes from the body, they end up taking old ink pigment with them, resulting in a fading tattoo after each use.

Given the popularity of tattoos and the large market of people wishing to remove them, Cipher Pharmaceuticals Inc. — a Canadian company with a focus on commercializing dermatology products — worked with Dr. Falkenham and the OCIE to obtain world-wide rights to the BLTR technology in 2016.

As of July 2020, the tattoo removal cream is in the pre-clinical trial phase of pharmaceutical development with Cipher. Should the BLTR cream see successful commercialization, our licensing partners expect it to be a prescription medication available through physicians. 


  • Dr. Alec Falkenham - PhD, Pathology (a PhD candidate at the time of his invention)