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Chanel, Olaplex Back ‘Cosmetic Lab of the Future’

Founded by MIT grad Jasmina Aganovic, Arcaea aims to harness biology to sustainably make and provide beauty ingredients.

MIT grad and beauty veteran Jasmina Aganovic aims to build the “cosmetic lab of the future,” she said. 

To do it, she’s raised money from some of the biggest names in beauty, including Chanel, Givaudan and Olaplex. 

Jasmina Aganovic
Jasmina Aganovic, founder and CEO of Arcaea, a new, biology-driven beauty business. courtesy of Arcaea

The company, Arcaea, plans to use DNA sequencing, biological engineering and fermentation in order to develop new beauty ingredients and products. The company’s goal is to create a new supply chain for beauty that doesn’t rely on petrochemicals or depleting natural resources, like plants and animals, in order to make beauty products. 

Aganovic sees a “few challenges” when it comes to beauty’s current supply chain, she said. “The entire commercial history of this industry has relied on chemistry to make its ingredients, and it is industrial chemistry — it relies on taking some sort of material and extracting something from it. So whether it’s petrochemicals, or animals, or plants — once you extract that, you have to hit it with temperature, pressure, heat to get the molecule you really want,” she said. 

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Thus far, that has resulted in about 16,000 available ingredients for beauty products, Aganovic said. Her offering will move away from those traditional methods toward more sustainable ones, she said. 

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“To sustain the supply chain of one multinational…the earth could not grow enough plants to sustain plant-based sourcing for all of their product lines,” Aganovic said. “We think we can solve that problem.” 

To do that, the company uses yeast to replicate different DNA codes, brewing ingredients in a similar way as one would brew beer, Aganovic said. That synthetic biology process is one that would allow Arcaea to explore ingredients that hadn’t previously been used in beauty, she said, as well as ensure quality.

Arcaea is calling the process “expressive biology,” and for some projects will partner with biotechnology company Ginkgo Bioworks, where Aganovic was previously entrepreneur in residence. 

Arcaea’s mission is the latest example of biotechnology working its way into the beauty industry. Other companies, including Amyris, produce ingredients in the same way.

Arcaea, which has 10 employees, plans to both provide ingredients to business partners, as well as potentially bring its own products and brands to market, Aganovic said. Ingredients will begin coming to market in 2023, Aganovic said.

Arcaea raised a $78 million Series A from Cascade Investment LLC, Viking Global, Olaplex, Chanel, Givaudan and Wittington Ventures in the third quarter of 2021. Aganovic said the money will be used to build up Arcaea’s infrastructure, including buying equipment. 

Aganovic said her goal is “developing the cosmetic lab of the future” and building a “biology-first minded beauty company.”

Olaplex said it made the investment in order to “target transformation in the hair care industry,” in a statement, and that Arcaea is working on hair and scalp programs that would aim to strengthen and protect the hair and scalp. 

FOR MORE FROM WWD.COM, SEE: 

Inside the ‘Green Science’ of Beauty

What Lab-Engineered ‘Naturals’ Mean for the Beauty Industry