The makeup of the future will be grown in a petri dish

Making magnificence merchandise can be an unpleasant enterprise; many elements should be extracted from the earth or harvested from animals.

This week, a high-tech magnificence startup Arcaea launched with the hope of creating magnificence merchandise extra sustainably. The firm already has $78 million in funding from large gamers in the magnificence house together with Chanel, fragrance firm Givaudan, and Birchbox proprietor Viking World Buyers. It spins out of Boston-based biotech agency Ginkgo Bioworks which specializes in creating cells that accomplish a particular function.

[Photo: Arcaea]

Arcaea’s purpose is to create elements that may obtain new performance, akin to shampoo that alters the proteins in your hair to memorize your hair model and sunscreen that makes your pores and skin extra proof against the solar’s rays.

Jasmina Aganovic [Photo: Arcaea]

Jasmina Aganovic, Arcaea’s founder and CEO, has spent her profession fascinated with how biotechnology can change the magnificence trade. In 2015, she based Mother Dirt, a startup that makes use of dwell micro organism to cleanse the pores and skin with out harming the good micro organism in our our bodies. In 2019, she left the firm to turn into the entrepreneur-in-residence at Ginkgo Bioworks, the place she incubated Arcaea.


Aganovic was drawn to Ginkgo as a result of of its highly effective Foundry platform that mainly permits scientists to program cells the manner we program computer systems. “The Foundry is a lab, however as an alternative of tons of scientists utilizing pipettes, Ginkgo marries biology with AI and robots,” she says. “This enables us to know cells and program cells at scale.” As an example, Ginkgo famously sequenced the DNA of cells from flowers that had been extinct for hundreds of years to revive their fragrances, then produced these smells for a museum exhibit.

With Arcaea, Aganovic will use Ginkgo’s Foundry platform to domesticate cells that may be used in magnificence merchandise. For instance, keratin is a protein at the moment used in many magnificence merchandise as a result of it strengthens hair, nails, and pores and skin. It’s at the moment derived from animals, whose hooves, hair, and horns are made up of the substance. Arcaea plans to domesticate keratin utilizing Ginkgo’s know-how, which wouldn’t require utilizing animals. As soon as the keratin cells have been created, they may be mass produced in vats, then included into magnificence merchandise. This additionally streamlines the provide chain, since you possibly can manufacture the keratin near the place you make the product, chopping down on carbon emissions. “With biotech, you possibly can resolve the sourcing drawback,” says Aganovic. “Shoppers don’t need merchandise that require harming animals.”

[Photo: courtesy Ginkgo/Arcaea]

However Aganovic is much more enthusiastic about the prospects of creating fully new elements that aren’t discovered in nature. In the case of keratin, as an illustration, Ginkgo’s lab would enable the Arcaea staff to review the protein in nice element, then reprogram it to realize particular targets. It would be attainable, for instance, to design keratin that might alter the construction of hair, so it will curl or straighten, relying on what the person needed. “Biology can do issues that chemistry can’t,” says Aganovic. “Chemistry seems to be at your hair and coats it with chemical compounds to make it appear and feel a sure manner. Biology seems to be at issues at the amino acid stage and alters it.”

Aganovic says the firm is a few years out from bringing new merchandise to market. And whereas it’s at the moment investing closely in creating these new applied sciences, ultimately, Aganovic expects the value to be similar to others on the market. Lab-grown keratin, as an illustration, may price as similar as keratin harvested from animals.

[Photo: Arcaea]

Thus far, Ginkgo’s know-how has been utilized to drugs for issues like nucleic acid vaccines, which inject DNA code into the physique to provide inert proteins. (The know-how used in Pfizer and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines is analogous.) Ginkgo additionally works with agriculture corporations to create strains of crops which are extra proof against pests and illness, and higher capable of purchase vitamins. That is the first time Ginkgo is partnering with a magnificence firm.

Arcaea will associate with magnificence manufacturers to create merchandise for them, though Aganovic says she will be able to’t but disclose which of them. Nonetheless, the firm’s buyers present some clues as to which manufacturers would possibly be on that record. Arcaea additionally expects to start out producing its personal line of merchandise. “I’m enthusiastic about how we are able to develop instruments centered round biology to resolve some of the issues that I’ve seen in the magnificence trade,” Aganovic says. “This know-how could make the trade extra sustainable and it’d allow us to create merchandise we’ve by no means been capable of think about earlier than.”