Jellatech, the North Carolina-based startup dedicated to developing animal-free collagen and gelatin ingredients, has announced the closing of a US$2 million pre-seed round. The new funds, which come ahead of the launch of its first cell-based ingredient samples, will fuel the company’s continued development of its animal-free products for the F&B, skincare and medical industries.
Jellatech has raised US$2 million in a pre-seed financing round to further develop its cell-cultured animal-free collagen and gelatin ingredients platform, the firm announced today (April 21). The round saw participation from a number of venture capital investors, including Iron Grey, YellowDog, 7 Hound Ventures, Capital V, Sentient Investments and Bluestein Ventures.
The startup’s existing investors – New York and Singapore-based accelerator and venture capital fund Big Idea Ventures (BIV) and Sustainable Food Ventures (SFV), an alternative protein-focused rolling fund run by Ryan Bethencourt and Mariliis Holm – also joined in the pre-seed fundraise.
“We are excited and proud to have the support of our investors who believe in our company and the future we are building,” commented CEO Stephanie Michelsen, who co-founded and launched Jellatech with Kylie van Deinsen-Hesp in November 2020. “We know that the demand and the need is there, and now we have the fuel to realise it”.
Jellatech’s cell-cultured gelatin and collagen can be applied to replace animal-based ingredients in multiple industries, including in F&B in products like gummy bears and supplements, skincare and cosmetics, and the medical and pharmaceutical sectors for uses such as tissue engineering. Together, collagen and gelatin make up a global market worth US$3.5 billion dollars and is expected to grow 9% annually.
As consumers become increasingly aware of the health, sustainability and safety advantages of a non-animal-based supply chain, producers are eyeing the potential of biologically molecularly-identical yet animal-free cell-based ingredients like Jellatech’s as a critical solution for their products.
“Being able to manufacture native collagen without animals is unique, this is what makes our technology truly groundbreaking,” explained co-founder Hesp, who heads the science behind Jellatech. Current alternatives, such as plant-based pectin, agar, or animal-free collagen peptides haven’t been able to disrupt the market due to their limited functionality.
“Jellatech has received a lot of inquiries from potential customers and partners hungry to get their hands on the first animal-free collagen and gelatin ingredient products,” said Jellatech in a press statement.
“Beauty companies have had lots of interest in this due to the fact the market is changing to more sustainable and animal-free products,” added Michelsen, in conversation with Green Queen Media. “The opportunities for them is endless with this type of product – it’s the first of its kind.”
The biotech further revealed that their first samples will be shipped out by the end of this April. “We have been able to advance the distribution of our first collagen samples, which is a really exciting thing that our team is very proud of,” said the CEO.
Speaking to Green Queen Media, Michelsen explains that the first markets Jellatech will likely enter will be in cosmetics and materials. “F&B and pharma have more regulations that we have to work through before launching in that market.”
In terms of timeline, Michelsen told us that the firm expects to commercialise “hopefully within the next 12-18 months,” with caveats for food applications, given regulatory hurdles. “For food applications, we are still trying to understand the FDA regulations for us to get to a commercial grade product in that market.”
When asked what the timeline was for price parity with their animal counterpart, Michelsen said: “This is a tough question, but it is something we are working very hard on. We want to be as price competitive as possible, while producing high quality products.”
While Jellatech launched as the first startup exclusively dedicated to cultivated collagen and gelatin, other biotechs have too been building animal-free ingredient platforms and leveraged various technologies to deliver their solutions.
Biodesign startup Geltor, for instance, uses fermentation technology to create protein ingredients that are clinically demonstrated for high performance. The startup offers a number of collagen replacement products for skincare and cosmetics, including HumaColl21 and Collume, as well as animal-free collagen alternative specifically for food and nutrition applications, which will be launched in mid-2021.
Hong Kong-based cellular agriculture firm Avant Meats, on the other hand, has developed a cultivated bioactive functional protein that contains marine protein peptides, aimed at disrupting the use of collagen in cosmeceutical products. Called Zellulin, the product marks the startup’s first entry into the skincare space, while it continues to focus on cell-cultured seafood at the same time.
All images courtesy of Jellatech.