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L’Oréal Takes Stake in French Biotech Company

The group has invested in Microphyt, which can sustainably transform microalgae for new cosmetic solutions.

PARIS — L’Oréal is expanding its reach into the green sciences by taking a minority stake in Microphyt, a French biotech company, to develop new cosmetic solutions.

The investment was made through Business Opportunities for L’Oréal Development, or BOLD, the group’s venture capital fund.

L’Oréal and Microphyt are beginning to work together on innovative active ingredients to open new beauty territories, according to Anne Colonna, head of advanced research at L’Oréal.

“We are going to put all the innovative power of Microphyt, including the actives they already have, with all the power of L’Oréal to evaluate both the efficacy and the safety, and to formulate,” she said. “We really want to synergize to go one step further.”

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Another goal with the partnership is to help L’Oréal reach the group’s 2030 sustainable development engagements, respecting planetary boundaries.

Microphyt, which was founded in 2007, is based in Baillargues, France. The company has developed a low-carbon process to produce microalgae, which is used for their functional qualities and active properties in cosmetics.

Microphyt’s process is patented and produces the largest varieties of microalgae anywhere around the globe using a controlled method and with a large scale, according to L’Oréal. Microphyt’s integrated platform transforms microalgae into natural and renewable ingredients.

Together, L’Oréal and Microphyt plan to build a technical platform and combine material and human resources to create microalgae biomass-derived raw materials. Those should then lead to new cosmetic solutions.

“Our ambition is to collaborate across the world with the most disruptive scientific entities in green sciences, in order to collectively develop responsible innovations on a large scale and make them available to as many people as possible,” said Barbara Lavernos, deputy chief executive officer in charge of research, innovation and technology at L’Oréal, in a statement released Tuesday evening.

She added the partnership “will enable us, thanks to its unique natural solutions derived from microalgae, to further accelerate our drive toward more sustainable beauty.”

Vincent Usache, managing director of Microphyt, said the partnership with L’Oréal “is fully in line with Microphyt’s ambition to give the largest number of people access to natural solutions drawn from microalgae.”

“The technological platform in an ‘extended lab’ mode is perfectly complementary to our own activities,” he continued. “With L’Oréal, this new technological platform will help us speed up the development of eco-designed ingredients, as well as facilitate the scale-up of our production.”

In 2019, Microphyt raised 28.5 million euros, a fundraising round said to be among the largest in the microalgae sector. Subsequently, Microphyt sped up the development and marketing of natural ingredients from the nutrition and cosmetics realms.

L’Oréal’s internal advanced research team is empowered by external partners, such as Microphyt, and dedicated to green sciences.

Green sciences span “from the way we cultivate our ingredients, to biotech, to green chemistry, which is the way we produce and we transform our ingredients, including eco-conceived ways to formulate our products,” Colonna said.

“Why is that so critical?” she continued. “One of our commitments is 95 percent of our ingredients will be bio-sourced, derived from abundant minerals or circular processes by 2030. And for that, we need to modify the way we create, we conceive our ingredients, our raw materials.”

Today, 60 percent of L’Oréal’s ingredients have reached that goal.

Microalgae is strategic for L’Oréal since the company naturally synthesizes “extraordinary” components for use in cosmetics, Colonna said. Microalgae can generate some pigments in makeup or active ingredients, such as antioxidants, for example.

“What is very interesting is the way they produce it,” she said, explaining microalgae use light and CO2 from air for energy, so it’s possible to sustainably scale up ingredients sourced from them.

L’Oréal has forged numerous scientific partnerships linked to green sciences. Last January, for instance, the group linked up with Verily, a precision health company, to push the boundaries of skin health.

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Others include tie-ups with the National Institute for Materials Sciences in Japan, the Singapore Centre for Environmental Life Sciences Engineering and the Laboratoire de Chimie des Polymères in Bordeaux, France.