Bio Boom

Preview image of “Bio Boom”
  • One of the most successful anti-ageing products: EGF Serum from Iceland
  • Photos: Bioeffect, Geltor
The founders of Geltor ban animal additives from their cosmetics

Labs worldwide are developing new components to make beauty more effective, efficient and sustainable.

Biological processes have always been used in production, from cheesemaking to traditional medicine. As science advances though, biotech is used in the service of ever more versatile beauty needs, while often boosting the sector’s sustainability, too. One push for this is suspicion about the effect of chemicals on our skin, physiology and surroundings. And a greater understanding of how our microprocesses work enables scientists to offer solutions at a molecular level.

Bioeffect was formed when a group of Icelandic scientists managed to bioengineer a plant-based replica of epidermal growth factor (EGF) in barley. This spawned their bestselling EGF Serum, and a related line including an Imprinting Hydrogel Mask to complement the serum’s impact. “EGF is a small natural protein in our skin and it plays a critical role in our skin biology acting like a musical conductor,” explains CSO and co-founder Dr Björn Örvar. “It boosts our production of collagen and elastin as well as increasing the skin’s ability to retain moisture.”

Another factor driving the biotech boom are the intensifying consumer demands for sustainability. Our understanding has undergone a transformation, with many of us now aware that “natural” is not synonymous with “sustainable”. For example, a fad for a certain natural ingredient can cause widespread deforestation and biodiversity destruction, such as occurred with argan oil.

Many developers are therefore working from the perspective of bypassing natural extraction to obtain natural results. Californian operator Geltor began when co-founders Alex Lorestani and Nick Ouzounov asked how biological technology could be used to eliminate “outdated animal inputs”. Geltor’s first protein product, Collume, was the world’s first animal-free collagen technology, winning the CEW Beauty Award for Innovation of the Year. It is now used in products worldwide. Geltor continues to develop
ingredients produced via fermentation and with engineered yeasts for uses like perfumes, foods and cosmetics.

But will these secrets remain in the hands of a small bunch of experts or can they be made universally available? That’s the pretext of Ginkgo Bioworks, who say they’re “building the backend of the bioeconomy”. Their concept is to create a platform that can be used with any partner to produce custom organisms. The company was founded by MIT graduates in the US, and reached a valuation of over $4.1 billion in 2019. Their partnerships are dizzying in diversity, but include a link-up with Bayer for agriculture, and various beauty pursuits, such as creating fragrance components with giant global supplier Robertet.