Biotech firm Modern Meadow touts promise of yeast-based ‘biocollagen’

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

The company's 'biocollagen' or recombinant protein can be integrated at low doses into skin care formulations to stimulate Collagen type III [Getty Images]
The company's 'biocollagen' or recombinant protein can be integrated at low doses into skin care formulations to stimulate Collagen type III [Getty Images]

Related tags Collagen Biotechnology biotech Yeast Fermentation Skin health anti-ageing wrinkles sustainable beauty

US biofabrication specialist Modern Meadow has developed a recombinant protein inspired by Collagen type III from yeast, offering the beauty industry a more sustainable alternative to traditional animal-sourced collagens, its VP of R&D says.

Founded in 2011, the New York-headquartered biotech firm was specialised in biofabrication to create sustainable materials for various industries, including cosmetics and personal care.

Speaking at this year’s IFSCC Congress in London, UK, back in September, Isabelle Hansenne-Cervantes, VP of R&D at Modern Meadow, said the company “built with biology”​ to offer ingredients that were both high-performing and sustainable.

“We harness unique properties of proteins to move the world away from petrochemical and animal-derived inputs, leading to a shift in the bioeconomy,”​ Hansenne-Cervantes said.

In beauty, the company had developed a biotech alternative to collagen, she said. Its ‘Bio-Coll@gen’​ product was inspired by human Collagen type III and made using engineered yeast strains, she said. Modern Meadow said the proprietary recombinant protein had demonstrated “biostimulation of an array of genes including Collagen type III in human skin cells”.

Hansenne-Cervantes said the technology was breakthrough for the beauty industry given how “fundamental”​ collagen was for the skin and how significant market demand was.

A break-away from animal-sourced collagen

Almost all true collagens on the market were animal-sourced, she said, either from bovine, porcine, chicken or fish as it was “abundant and very affordable”​ in this form. There were, however, “some risk”​ factors with these sources, related to infectious diseases and allergic reactions, as well as certain unpleasant characteristics, such as odour, she said.

And whilst the market had seen some ‘vegan collagen’ or ‘plant-based collagen’ hit shelves more recently, Hansenne-Cervantes said these were not true collagens, rather collagen promoters.

Around two decades ago, she said there were developments of recombinant collagen, created using engineering tech, offering cell molecules of different sizes and from different expression platforms such as mammals, insects, yeast, bacteria and plants. And what Modern Meadow had focused its work on was yeast, the R&D VP said.

“Using a deep understanding of the molecular biology and fermentation process, we engineer the yeast strain to produce the ‘biocollagen’ which stimulates the Collagen III production in human skin cells. We bypass the conventional animal-based extraction methods and provide cosmetics a more sustainable and efficacious method.”

Stimulation of Collagen type III

The resulting ‘biocollagen’ was liquid form and “very soluble in water and in ethanol”,​ she said, as well as “very compatible with all thickeners, emulsifiers and surfactants”. ​The product was safe and non-irritant – important given most collagen beauty products are applied to the face – and was odourless and colourless, making it easy to use for all skin types.

Hansenne-Cervantes said in vitro​ studies with dermal fibroblasts had shown strong Collagen type III stimulation, +150% versus untreated and +53% versus an active comparison. A closer look at dosage – used at between 0.1 and 0.5% of total formulation – also showed better stimulation of Collagen type III compared to other actives such as niacinamide, retinol and the top peptides in the market, she said.

Modern Meadow had demonstrated its ‘biocollagen’ was working through two ways, she said, decreasing the activity of enzymes degrading the extracellular matrix whilst at the same time also improving extracellular matrix synthesis.

Hansenne-Cervantes said two further clinical studies had also looked to evaluate the impact of its ‘biocollagen’ in formulas in vivo​. Clinical experts suggested skin firmness and elasticity improved by 25%; the appearance of sagging skin improved by 27%; and the appearance of lines and wrinkles and an overall smooth skin texture by 18%.

“The ‘biocollagen’ has demonstrated good anti-ageing benefits. We have seen that with instrumental evaluation there is an improvement of barrier function, collagen content, hydration and the appearance of lines and wrinkles,”​ she said.

“And with expert grading and self-assessment, we have seen an improvement on skin firmness, elasticity, lines and wrinkles, skin texture, radiance and luminosity.”

The future of collagen

Earlier this year, Len Monheit, CEO of ITC and the Collagen Stewardship Alliance (CSA) which represented the collagen sector, told CosmeticsDesign-Europe there was certainly industry and consumer appetite for alternatives to animal-sourced collagen, but pure vegan collagen remained far from major commercial scale​. Some non-animal sources from cell-based systems that could produce collagen were also on the market, but similarly not yet at scale, Monheit said.

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