According to Kline, a revolution in how personal care ingredients are sourced and synthesized is under way. Driven by consumer preference for more natural products, ingredients made via synthetic biology will increasingly replace those made by synthetic chemistry. Rare, expensive, labor-intensive, or politically sensitive ingredients previously made from petroleum or extracted at low concentrations from animal or plant sources can now be cultured like wine and cheese without incurring the wrath of PETA, humanitarian, or environmental groups, according to the companies.
Microorganisms effectively convert feedstock to product in a single step, but their chemical intermediates are very different from those in a petrochemical refinery, and those intermediates can cut across traditional silos far beyond chemicals. A single biological pathway may yield pharmaceuticals, emollients, and fuels.
“More than new biology, this revolution is a collision of genetics, information science, and robotics,” says Sam Nejame, CEO of Promotum, co-author of the upcoming report. “Today, we may be in the chemical industry, but in the future, we will be in the sustainable functionalized carbon industry.”
According to Kline, synthetic biology will impact everything from space exploration, flavors and fragrances, food, agriculture, pharmaceuticals, and nutriceuticals to personal care and every heavy industry in-between, but not every synthetic biology company will be successful.