4 Mins Read
Gelatin has traditionally been made using collagens derived from the hides and bones of cows and pigs. It’s used in so many different consumer products, from your daily vitamin capsules to sweet treats like gummy bears. Even in the medical world, gelatin is used in things like tissue engineering. Now, there’s a startup that wants to disrupt this enormous market that has for years been unsustainably reliant on animals.
Based in San Francisco, Provenance Bio is making a biomimetic version of gelatin without the use of a single animal. Instead, using its proprietary microbial protein expression platform, the young company produces recombinant full-length bovine type I collagen, which then allows it to make animal-free gelatin.
It all sounds a bit sci-fi, but the company officially revealed on Wednesday (June 23) that it’s managed to do exactly that. Full-length type I collagen—the most widely-found collagen in mammals—is made in their clean lab setting using synthetic biology technologies. Their end product, gelatin produced with zero animal inputs, bears the same functional attributes as the real deal, but with a far lower environmental cost.
We were inspired to make an animal-free gelatin to provide a sustainable and humane solution for this material.Michalyn Andrews, Co-Founder & CEO, Provenance Bio
Beyond being far more sustainable by virtue of eliminating animals from the supply chain, the startup says that their solution addresses other market issues such as quality inconsistencies. Traditional gelatin production can often face bacterial contamination challenges, for instance, resulting in an unreliable supply and price volatility.
Not to mention, animal-free gelatin also means eliminating cruelty, making their product not only functional, but suitable for a wider range of consumers, such as vegans and vegetarians.
“We were inspired to make an animal-free gelatin to provide a sustainable and humane solution for this material, while solving major concerns with animal derived gelatins that suffer from animal-borne illness, batch-to-batch variability, and price fluctuations,” said Provenance Bio co-founder and CEO Michalyn Andrews.
Competing head-to-head with animal proteins on price and quality
According to Provenance, their novel microbial protein expression platform has huge market disruption potential because of its cost-competitive edge and quality advantages.
Andrews, who co-founded the company with Dr. Zev Gartner, Dr. John Dueber and Christian Ewton last year, said that their animal-free gelatin has “superior performance” and can “beat animal agriculture prices”.
“The platform will produce animal-free gelatin at attractive price points,” she says. “We took it upon ourselves to redesign a new chassis for protein production that would revolutionise our ability to deliver functional proteins at price parity with those sourced from animals.”
“While we still have a road ahead of us, to date, we’ve been able to increase our own collagen strain efficiencies by 100-fold,” Andrews added.
Partnering with industry leaders
In terms of its go-to-market strategy, Provenance says that their product will be rolled out via a B2B route, choosing to partner with large corporations to make the biggest impact across multiple industries.
Currently, the firm is exploring partnerships with businesses in everything from pharmaceuticals to biomaterials and F&B.
The pain points these industries are facing become tremendous opportunities when the solutions are approached through science and innovation.Michalyn Andrews, Co-Founder & CEO, Provenance Bio
“In addition to corporations that have large collagen supply chains for gelatin products, Provenance will be partnering with companies who want to be on the forefront of progressing other vegan markets and the circular economy,” Andrews told Green Queen Media.
Commenting further on Provenance’s milestone, she said: “As we make these building blocks available, we offer the opportunity for something that goes far beyond current sustainability targets. The pain points these industries are facing become tremendous opportunities when the solutions are approached through science and innovation.”
Creating a sustainable ‘library of collagen variants’
Provenance’s mission doesn’t end with gelatin. In addition to full-length bovine collagens, the company is going to use its platform to create an entire “library of collagen variants for tailored applications”.
By year end, we expect to cut that number by 90%, making our products over 500 times more carbon efficient than collagens and related products sourced from cattle.Michalyn Andrews, Co-Founder & CEO, Provenance Bio
After paving the way for biomimetic collagens with zero animal inputs to be integrated into the supply chains of multiple industries, the company envisions wider adoption of animal-free functional proteins that can make a huge impact in terms of reducing carbon emissions.
“Gelatin is just the first of many animal products we’re disrupting at Provenance,” Andrews explains. “We want our gelatin to be a seamless plug-and-play product for corporations ready to make their supply chains more sustainable.”
“Today our collagen products have 1/50th the carbon footprint of bovine collagen products. By year end, we expect to cut that number by 90%, making our products over 500 times more carbon efficient than collagens and related products sourced from cattle.”
Lead image courtesy of Provenance Bio.