Alexander Lorestani founded San Leandro-based start-up Geltor in 2015 with molecular biologist Nikolay Ouzounov after studying medicine at Rutgers and bacterial pathogenesis at Princeton. These high-achieving scientists have since created a remarkable game-changing product — animal-free collagen — that has piqued the interest of investors and landed them an $18.2 million investment in a Series A round led by Cultivian Sandbox Ventures and supported by GELITA, ADM Ventures, Cavallo Ventures, and Box Group. This financial boost should help Geltor’s products reach the commercial food market by 2020.
Lorestani told Food Navigator that their animal-free collagen is versatile and can be made to take on different qualities and characteristics, making it appealing to producers who have limited animal-free alternatives available that will result in a similar end product as that which is made from animal collagen. Lorestani also notes that the rise in sustainability practices, conscious consumerism, and concerns of animal-derived diseases have helped open up the market for Geltor. Although the current focus seems to be leaning toward the food industry, Geltor’s consumer product N-Collage is the first 100 percent vegan collagen technology created for skincare.
On their website, the company describes their collagen-producing process as such: “Geltor is building on advances in biology and computation to sustainably create animal-free, non-GMO proteins that provide consumers with the best high-performance ingredients nature has to offer … Geltor’s scientists have developed a proprietary bio-design platform to discover and sustainably create natural, animal-free proteins designed for superior performance in consumer products. The process begins by identifying the ideal protein in nature for a critical consumer need, and then designing a microbe that efficiently turns plant-based sugars into that protein product through fermentation.”
Gelatin, which is derived from animal collagen, is a cute word for something horrific. Gelatin is made up of ground bones, skin, and connective tissues of cows, pigs, and fish and is used largely by the food industry, as well as the nutraceutical, pharmaceutical, photography, and personal care industries. If more consumers knew what gelatin and collagen were, they would likely be disturbed and pass on the roasted marshmallows at the next bonfire. However, alarmingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, Lorestani informed Food Navigator that only 31 percent of consumers are aware that collagen is derived from animals, never thinking that the gummy bears they eat by the bagful or the gel cap ibuprofens they pop for a headache are made up of ground up animal parts. Of course, collagen supplements and the cosmetics industry do not like to brag how collagen is sourced either.
Geltor’s animal-free collagen will surely be a game-changer, creating the same properties of animal collagen but without the cruelty, environmental impact, or health risks tied to animal agriculture. We very much look forward to seeing this innovative company continue to expand and help shape a more ethical, sustainable, and healthier future.
Curious to learn more? Visit the Geltor website here.
To learn more about the innovation happening in the plant-based and animal-free product space, check out the Eat for the Planet with Nil Zacharias podcast!
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