“Algenist is a skin-care brand that really drives ingredient-level innovation through biotechnology, primarily with algae science,” explained Rose Fernandez, chief executive officer of the company, whose patented ingredient is alguronic acid. “That alguronic acid was born from an unexpected discovery.”
In San Francisco, scientists were making biofuel from algae and came across a particular strain for which they had no use. Marketer Frederic Stoeckel was then brought in, and he sprung to life the vision of Algenist.
The acid from micro algae, said Fernandez, provides cell renewal and regeneration. “That’s how we get our 10-day claims,” she explained.
The press embraced Algenist. “People were really starting to understand what you could do with the powers of algae,” she said.
Fernandez met Stoeckel, and they had an immediate connection, since both are passionate about the beauty business and inspired by biotechnology. She began at Algenist as senior vice president of sales, working alongside him.
Once Algenist was taken over by Tengram Capital Partners, it was carved off of the biotech laboratory in which it had been born.
“We had to stand up as a biotech brand, and we were already operating, trading with retailers for years already,” Fernandez said. “That’s an insane process — it’s like basically building the plane while it’s taking off. But it’s one that is absolutely rewarding, and I was able to do it with Frederic.”
He passed the torch on to Fernandez in the first quarter of 2018, and still sits on Algenist’s board.
The company today works with contract manufacturers. Its latest innovation is a liquid collagen. “We found a way to commercialize vegan collagen,” she said, of the protein generally derived from animals. “It’s one of our biggest successes today.”
Fernandez said alguronic acid boosts ingredients’ efficiency. “We have the science behind it,” she added. “We are always pushing for discovery. We are working on something right now that will rival a gold-standard ingredient….It’s something that people love, and it will launch next spring.”
Algenist is working, as well, with a blue algae species, and has moved into ingestibles.
“Our definition of biotechnology is really that it gives us the opportunity for her to have it all,” Fernandez said. “Biotechnology is the original green science. It is inherently clean, it is sustainable, it allows for us to formulate very precisely with what we want to replicate from nature and also with the highest level of efficacy. The full range is vegan, which we’ve been able to do through biotechnology, as well.”
The executive ticked off some other ways algae is being used outside the beauty space — including as a plastic replacement, a polishing agent and possibly sunscreen.
“One of my favorite fun facts is that it has more protein than beef,” Fernandez said. “So if it hasn’t shown up on your plate already, it will, because it’s a sustainable food source, and we think that that’s pretty exciting. What you can do with algae and extract from algae is limitless.”