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Biodesign startup Geltor has revealed completion of the first commercial run of its animal-free collagen product, PrimaColl. The vegan collagen was produced in partnership with Arxada, over a five-month period that ended in Autumn 2021. The run proved Geltor’s capacity to scale its developments, within set deadlines, and with no loss of precision.
PrimaColl is a protein-rich bioidentical substitute for animal collagen. It has the same amino acid profile and is able to match commercial performance across a range of applications. The company claims to have increased its capacity from 10,000 litres of fermentation in 2019 to millions in 2021.
An industry first
Most collagen products are generated from animal sources, but the amount needed to satiate demand makes it an unsustainable practice. Geltor aims to be the solution to the problem, with its unique structural protein that starts with simple E Coli bacteria.
“We still have a long way to go, as the collagen market is hundreds of kilotons of product,” Alex Lorestani, CEO and co-founder of Geltor told FoodNavigator-USA. “But we’ve demonstrated that we can run a process at full svale. Now, we’ve got to scale this out to multiple facilities, so we can serve customers and hit the volumes they’re really looking for.”
Most other plant-based collagen alternatives are simply ‘builder’ or ‘boosters’. PrimaColl claims to be a full substitute for animal collagen, which is collected from skin and bones. The purity of the vegan development has led Geltor to propose wider formulation variation and diverse applications, including in the food and beverage industries. Lorestani claims that his product has greater potency than conventional alternatives and suffers no solubility issues. Initial launches were in the topical beauty field. A partnership with Orora Skin Science was announced in September last year. In December another collaboration, this time with K-Beauty influencer Sally Olivia-Kim was revealed.
“Collagen is one of the fastest-growing ingredients in the functional food and beverage space,” ScottFabro, vice president of business development for Geltor told FoodNavigator-USA last year. “We are already engaged with several dozen customers and the interest level is extremely high. Vegan collagen is for everyone, There’s no dietary restriction, no religious restrictions and it’s an opportunity for customers to differentiate themselves in the market.”
GMO as a consideration
Geltor uses processes that genetically modify bacteria to create the proteins it needs. Final products are not GMO but part of the production process involves factors that are. For some consumers, this could be a negative. The company pits the practice against the alternative, which is slaughtering animals for the same product. It also claims that attitudes towards GMO tech have softened as people begin to understand the potential environmental benefits it can offer.
Geltor currently has a number of patent applications filed to protect its technology, use of modified bacteria, and a wider portfolio of developments.
Setting the pace
As Geltor races to the finish line with a successful production run under its belt, competitors are looking to keep working on their own developments.
Jellatech, a startup from North Carolina, revealed it had netted £2million in a pre-seed round last April. The company is looking to develop animal-free collagen and gelatin products. Like Geltor, it intends to target the F&B and beauty sectors, plus medical industries. The startup hoped to be ready to commercialise its cell-cultured products within 12-18 months, meaning that 2022 could be the launch year.
Last December, Illinois-based Roquette unveiled its animal-free softgel design. Utilising pea starch, capsules can be made for medicine delivery that are claimed to be as stable as conventional alternatives. The Lycagel Premix base is also, according to Roquette, simple to substitute into existing manufacturing tech, meaning suppliers can make a 1:1 swap without incurring costs.
All photos by Geltor.