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Synthetic Protein Maker Raises $91.3M in Venture Funds

Elastapure bottle

Elastapure, synthetic elastin (Geltor Inc.)

27 July 2020. A company creating animal-free designer proteins for skin care products is raising more than $91 million in its second venture funding round. Geltor Inc. in San Leandro, California is a five year-old enterprise founded by two Ph.D. molecular biologists from Princeton University that develops synthetic proteins as materials for producing cosmetics and other consumer goods manufacturers.

Geltor’s founders, Alex Lorestani and Nick Ouzounov, say they’ve devised a process to create proteins that bypasses animal sources. The company says it uses computational biology to design protein molecules to meet specific properties or characteristics, such as amino acid content or texture, then alters the genetics of microscopic plant organisms to produce proteins meeting those properties. The actual proteins are made through fermentation from those altered organisms.

One of the company’s products is a synthetic form of collagen, the most abundant protein in the human body. Most human collagen forms into supportive connective tissue, such as bones, muscle, and cartilage. One other type of collagen is a protein in skin. As the body ages, it produces less skin collagen and in lower quality, thus collagen supplements are formulated as topical treatments to help skin become more resilient and reduce wrinkles. Most of these supplements, however, use raw collagen derived from skin and bones taken from factory-farmed cows and pigs.

Elastin is another protein synthesized by Geltor. Like collagen, elastin is found in connective tissue, such as tendons and skin, but also in the lungs and arteries. In skin, elastin is about 1,000 times more elastic than collagen, but like collagen, elastin becomes less flexible as the human body ages, which contributes to wrinkles and stiffness. Like Geltor’s collagen, the company’s elastin is made with fermentation of altered microscopic plant organisms, avoiding any animal-based raw materials.

In addition, Geltor offers its synthesized proteins as a service, for custom-designing proteins to meet individual product specifications. The company says it can design proteins for a range of consumer goods including nutraceuticals, food, and beverages, as well as cosmetics and personal care products. In October 2019, Geltor and the German collagen maker Gelita agreed to collaborate on an ingestible form of collagen for dietary supplements.

The Covid-19 pandemic, says the company, makes it more important for consumer good manufacturers to have reliable supply chains. “Our goal is to make it ridiculously easy for iconic brands to build sustainable products,” says Lorestani, Geltor’s CEO in a company statement released through Cision. “This next stage of growth will allow Geltor to meet the moment our world is facing, as businesses recognize the urgent need to transition to a sustainable protein supply chain.”

“Having established the success of our biodesign platform,” adds Geltor chief technology officer Ouzounov, “we are now able to work even more closely with customers to develop unique tailored bioactive ingredients for their specific product needs.”

Geltor is raising $91.3 million in its second venture round, led by London-based CPT Capital that specializes in companies developing alternatives to animal-based proteins. Taking part in the round are WTT Investment Ltd., Blue Horizon Ventures, RIT Capital Partners, Humboldt Fund, and Pegasus Tech Ventures, as well as current investors Cultivian Sandbox, SOSV, iSelect Fund, Gelita, and Archer Daniels Midland.

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