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Biotechnology Execs Discuss the Industry’s Impact on Beauty

Executives from Amyris, Codex Beauty and Geltor discuss biotech's growing impact on beauty — and what they're eyeing for innovation.

As brands and consumers alike seek out innovation, biotechnology and beauty are increasingly intertwining.

During Beauty Inc @20, Alex Lorestani, chief executive officer and cofounder of Geltor; John Melo, CEO of Amyris, and Barbara Paldus, CEO and founder of Codex Beauty spoke about biotech’s impact on beauty with WWD’s senior editor Allison Collins.

For Amyris, its lab-produced squalane has become the company’s bread and butter. “We’re about 70 percent of the world market for squalane, and we’re expanding the market by 25 percent per year,” Melo said. “Our sales are growing at about 40 percent per year, and we’re selling squalane to about 3,000 beauty brands around the world.”

Geltor, for its part, produces collagen that is identical to human collagen, and it, too, is tracking upticks in interest. “Customers and consumers are beginning to understand what you can really get from biology, it’s becoming more of an opportunity driver,” Lorestani said.

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Paldus, who came from a professional background in biotechnology, founded Codex Beauty after the birth of her son. “I couldn’t find preservative systems that weren’t fossil fuel-based,” she said. “That’s how we ended up with biotech ingredients; we were looking for ferments that could actually act as a preservative system.”

Sustainability was a major theme, too, as lab-grown alternatives can cause less environmental damage than other sourcing methods. “We save 3 million sharks a year with squalane we’re making through fermentation. Sustainability starts with this idea that once you kill the shark, you’re not going to produce any more squalene from that shark. Ours we make from sugarcane, which is a five-year crop,” Melo said.

The case was the same with Geltor. “We had a third-party perform a lifecycle analysis and we could show that it required 79 percent less water, 50 percent less greenhouse gas and requires 40 percent less land to make proteins through fermentation,” Lorestani said.

“The thing with biotechnology today is it can deliver anything across the spectrum,” he continued. “There’s a really exciting spectrum of products to have and we’re seeing more and more third-party entities emerge to certify different kinds of products.”

Amyris’ value proposition is two-pronged: not only are ingredients less impactful environmentally, they’re also less expensive, 30 percent less than alternative sources, according to Melo. “As we learn about the consumer and the purpose we have for them, they’re all for sustainability. So, it needs to perform as well, or better, then the alternative source,” he said. “Cost has to be at least the same, or better.”

During the Q&A, Paldus said communicating around biotechnology requires a lot of consumer education. “Biotechnology is actually natural — the proteins and stem cells are 100 percent equivalent to those extracted from plants. Biotech is actually natural 2.0, because you’re getting sustainable ingredients that haven’t been exposed to pollution,” she said. “These ingredients also often perform better, because they’re undiluted.”


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