Online Exclusives

An Evolution in Product Development?

By Tom Branna, Editorial Director | March 24, 2014

Evolva’s deal with L’Oréal brings fermentation to the fore.

You bake with it and brew with it; now, what else can you do with it? Fermentation has been utilized to make a range of products ranging from bread and beer to anti-malaria drugs and insulin to vanilla and saffron; but not cosmetics, not just yet anyway. Evolva executives are determined to change all that. The company recently inked a deal with L’Oréal to co-develop novel biosynthetic production routes for an undisclosed ingredient with broad applications in the cosmetics industry.
“Evolva’s biotech platform on yeast design, optimization and fermentation could end in new cosmetic ingredients bringing a real breakthrough for our customers,” said Luc Aguilar, global head of L’Oréal’s Biotechnologies Department.
Evolva and L’Oréal will apply Evolva’s fermentation technology platform to develop and optimize yeast strains for the sustainable, cost-effective production of this strategically important cosmetics ingredient. This collaboration will begin immediately and conclude in late 2016, and includes an option to expand the ingredient focus.
According to Neil Goldsmith, CEO at Evolva, there are five fundamental advantages to the fermentation process:
• Performance;
• Price;
• Health benefits;
• Natural and sustainable; and
• Convenience.
“We can build functionality into these molecules,” insisted Goldsmith. “Without getting too specific, these molecules can prevent UV damage and skin aging.”
He explained that when placed under a UV light, the yeast “learns” to resist the oxidative damage from UV. Evolva researchers then uncover the molecules that make the UV resistance possible. As a result of this process, the Evolva executive said his company doesn’t segment the business into food, beverage, pharma or cosmetics.
“We really see ourselves as providing ingredients. The way yeast makes things, one day it may be a food ingredient and the next day it could be a fragrance ingredient,” he told
Although, the Evolva team is determined to move methodically into new categories—Goldsmith expects to sign two or three deals a year—he noted that the potential in cosmetics is much bigger than in other categories, even food.
“There are many companies like L’Oréal that want sustainable and highly reproducible manufacturing methods and we fill that niche,” explained Stephan Herrera, vice president, Evolva. “but we would never say that our methods are the be-all and end-all for ingredient production. Our platform can’t promise too much or under-deliver.”
Still, the Evolva executives are excited about the opportunities that their technology offers. Goldsmith said he expects a wide range of products will be commercialized during the next 10 years. For now, the company is quietly laying the groundwork to make sure it has the structure in place to deliver products to market.
After all, man (and woman for that matter) does not live by bread alone.

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