Is bio-engineered collagen the next step in animal protein replacement?

More … than 90% of collagen and gelatin on the market comes from pigs and cattle, a by-product of the slaughter industry. The goal of G...


More … than 90% of 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 just to generate hype, but to convince potential customers that they could make products that the current supply chain could not. What if you weren’t limited by the type of animal available to source your collagen? Dr. Lorestani remembers asking. Then he suggested a particular mammal, which is how Geltor settled on its first creation: HumaColl21, which the company calls “a virtually colorless and odorless solution.”

In 2019, the Korean company AHC released an eye cream containing HumaColl21. Orora Skin Science, based in Canada, followed with creams and serums in 2021. Over the past two years, Geltor has released biologically similar marine collagen and human elastin (as the name suggests, a particularly stretchy protein) for skin care, as well as a poultry-like collagen for use in nutritional supplements. Microbes growing in giant fermenters express each of these collagens, which are filtered and refined into pure proteins. “The protein is exactly like what you would find in the original source,” Dr. Lorestani said. (Third IGEN Certification Program confirmed that there was no detectable genetic material in the final product.)

A Investment round of 91.3 million dollars in 2020 allowed Geltor to increase its production from 35,000 liters in 2019 to 2.2 million liters in 2021, which is still a relatively small amount. Tiny bottles of luxury eye creams require very little HumaColl21; large bottles of shampoo and jars of collagen powder require more. Enough gelatin to supply Midwestern potlucks with vegan Jell-O salads would require exponential growth.

These limits determined the business course of the company. “The product volumes required for beauty and personal care customers are different from those required for food and nutrition customers,” Dr. Lorestani said.

Despite all this investment, 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 “magical disruption” behind the protein industry’s promises alternatives.

“There’s this idea that if you’re producing protein from cells or fermentation in a lab, that somehow takes us away from terrestrial meat production,” she said. these companies still need energy, metal and food for the microbes themselves. And, she noted, there is little transparency in their environmental claims, since their patented processes are closely guarded secrets.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Is bio-engineered collagen the next step in animal protein replacement?
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