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Bio-designed Collagen could Replace Animal Protein

Lately, many companies are dedicated to bioengineering protein that not only replaces animal meat but also leather and animal-based cosmetic products. Geltor, a bioengineering company based in the Bay Area, that advocates for imagination, beauty, and nutrition by biodesign is engineering bacteria cells to produce animal proteins not to be tasted but to be used in skincare and more. 

What Geltor is producing is a form of collagen that replicates protein that comes from skin and bones. At the moment, this plant-based collagen can only be found in the form of high-end skin products. But as the company evolves, it’s beginning to study other animal ingredients, such as the elastin in shampoo, the collagen peptides in smoothies, and even the gelatin in marshmallows, in order to replicate them. At the moment, over 90 percent of collagen and gelatin on the market comes from hogs and cattle, byproducts of the slaughter industry.

Chief executive, Alex Lorestani, explains how bioengineered proteins have a much lighter impact on the environment than animal farming. However, one of the challenges these companies are facing is whether there will be enough people interested in consuming and supporting their products enough to make a positive environmental impact possible. 

Geltor’s first creation was HumaColl21, the first ever biodesigned vegan human collagen for skin care, in the form of a colorless and odorless solution. In 2019, the Korean company AHC released an eye cream containing HumaColl21. The Canadian company, Orora Skin Science, have also released creams and serums containing this collagen in 2021. In the past two years, Geltor has released collagen that is biologically similar to marine collagen and human elastin for skin care, as well as poultry-like collagen to be used in nutritional supplements. Microbes growing in giant fermentors process these collagens, which are strained and refined into pure protein. 

“The protein is just like what you would find in the original source,” Dr. Lorestani said. This has been certified by the third-party IGEN program when they confirmed there is no detectable genetic material in the final product.

In 2020, Geltor received a $91.3 million investment to scale production to 2.2 million liters, although this is still a relatively small amount, as cosmetic products require very little of this vegan compound in their manufacturing. 

But there are many other products on the horizon, from protein powders to Jello-Os, to vegan meats, it seems like bioengineered proteins have found their place in the current market and are here to stay.

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