Is bioengineered collagen the next step in replacing animal protein?

More than 90% collagen and gelatin on the market comes from pigs and cattle, a by-product of the slaughter industry. The goal of Geltor’s theoretical experiments was not only to generate hype, but also to convince potential customers that they could create products that the current supply chain could not. What if you weren’t restricted by what kind of animals are available to give you collagen? ” Dr. Lorestani recalls asking. He then suggested a specific mammalian species, which is how Geltor tackled it when he first created it: HumaColl21, which the company calls “a virtually colorless and odorless solution.”

In 2019, Korean company AHC released an eye cream containing HumaColl21. Orora Skin Science, based in Canada, followed by cream and serum in 2021. Over the past two years, Geltor has released biosimilar marine collagen and human elastin (as the name suggests, a special protein). stretch) for skin care, as well as poultry-like collagen used for nutritional supplements. The microorganisms grown in the giant fermenters express each of these collagens, which are strained and purified into pure proteins. “The protein is like what you find in the source,” Dr. Lorestani said. (Third-party IGEN Certification Program confirm that there is no detectable genetic material in the final product.)

One Investment round of 91.3 million USD in 2020 allows Geltor to increase production from 35,000 liters in 2019 to 2.2 million liters in 2021, which is still a relatively small amount. Tiny luxury eye creams require very little HumaColl21; Large shampoo bottles and collagen powder jars require more. Enough gelatin to feed Midwestern dollars with a vegan Jell-O salad will require exponential growth.

Those limits defined the company’s commercial path. “The volume of product required for beauty and personal care customers is different from the volume of product required for food and nutrition customers,” Dr. Lorestani said.

Despite all those investments, there are skeptics. Julie Guthman, a geographer at the University of California, Santa Cruz who investigates Silicon Valley’s forays into agriculture and food, questions the “miracle disruption” behind its promises. alternative protein industry.

“It has been suggested that if you produce protein from cells or ferment it in the lab, it will somehow remove us from land-based meat production; These companies still require energy, metals, and food for the bacteria themselves. And, she notes, there is little transparency in their environmental claims, as their patented processes are closely guarded secrets.

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