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New GMO Alert: Synbio Is Beauty’s Ugly Little Secret

There are hundreds of aphorisms on the subject of beauty. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Beauty is […]

New GMO Alert: Synbio Is Beauty’s Ugly Little Secret

There are hundreds of aphorisms on the subject of beauty. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Beauty is […]

There are hundreds of aphorisms on the subject of beauty. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Beauty is skin deep. True beauty is in the soul. Beauty is a fragile gift. 

Economically, the beauty industry is a juggernaut. And where there is money, synbio developers seem to follow. 

The 2023 U.S. beauty and personal care market is valued at $97.8 billion. In 2021, the global beauty market was valued at $511 billion, with predictions to exceed $784.6 billion by 2027. The GMO-synbio beauty marketplace is expected to grow at an even faster pace. According to Research and Markets, the global synbio market is projected to reach $35.7 billion by 2027 (up from $11.4 billion in 2022)-- a growth rate of  25.6%

The significant growth and size of these two industries, combined with other factors -- an increase in consumer perceptions and desires around sustainability, the influence of social media, and the post-pandemic growth of direct-to-consumer (DTC) marketing – has led to the expanding use of synbio ingredients in beauty and personal care products. These ingredients include fragrances, squalane, resveratrol, collagen, peptides, and antioxidants. With this growth, we are also seeing a shift in terminology  away from genetic engineering, synthetic biology, synbio, and precision fermentation toward more evocative terms such as “expressive biology” and “biodesigned,” which suggest a measure of creativity and bespoke refinement. 

We first explored the use of synbio ingredients in body care in our February 2023 New GMO Alert, but given the rapid influx of these ingredients in the marketplace, we thought it might be a good time for an update. Below are some additional developments and products that we are monitoring.


Arcaea, a relatively new body care company that is dedicated to “biology-first beauty,” was launched in 2021 on the Ginkgo Bioworks platform. Two years prior, Arcaea’s founder, Jasmina Aganovic, had joined Ginkgo Bioworks as an entrepreneur in residence. Since its founding, Arcaea has raised $78 million from venture capitalists as well as industry leaders such as Chanel and Givaudan. In 2022, Arcaea announced the acquisition of Gadusol Laboratories, which was using synbio to reproduce sun-protection compounds present in marine life. 

More recently, the company launched Future Society to showcase Scent Surrections, a collection of six novel synbio fragrances “based on” extinct flora, which were reportedly created by sequencing the DNA from samples of extinct flowers maintained at the Harvard Herbaria. The DNA was then inserted into yeast, which produced the scent molecules through precision fermentation

Referred to as the Jurassic Park of fragrances, the collection features scents with names such as Floating Forest, Solar Canopy, Reclaimed Flame, Grassland Opera, and Invisible Wood, making it difficult to immediately discern exactly what extinct flowers were replicated. Reportedly, Invisible Woods is based on DNA from Wendlandia angustifolia, an extinct flower native to India. Grassland Opera derives its scent from Orbexilum stipulatum, an extinct North American flower. The extinct hibiscus flower, Hibiscadelphus wilderianus, is the source of the scent of Solar Canopy. All fragrances retail for $98 for 50 ml (1.6 fl oz).

In early 2023, Arcaea launched ScentARC, an odor protection prebiotic ingredient for use in deodorants. The product is currently being sampled by a number of deodorant manufacturers for potential inclusion in their products.

Cambrium Bio

Founded in Berlin in 2020, Cambrium Bio (Cambrium) is focused on the application of artificial intelligence (AI) to protein design. In 2021, Cambrium partnered with Ginkgo Bioworks to leverage the latter’s knowledge base and capabilities. The companies announced the successful completion of their collaboration in early 2023. 

In March 2023, Cambrium launched the first product from that collaboration: NovaColl, a skin-identical collagen, which is designed to be used in “premium personal care formulations.” Recently, the company announced the acquisition of €8 million in seed funding. The money will be used to finance the commercial growth of NovaColl as well as to help Cambrium expand into new industries.

Modern Meadow

Founded in 2011, the New Jersey company Modern Meadow has also developed a synbio collagen, Bio-Coll@gen, which is designed to replace human Type III collagen. The company is perhaps best known for its development of bioleather, a synbio leather replacement product. To market its Bio-Coll@gen, Modern Meadow has partnerships with Evonik, a global distributor of ingredients for cosmetics and personal care products, and Kolmar, a manufacturer of personal care products with connections in Asia and North America.

K18 Biomimetic Hairscience

K18 Biomimetic Hairscience (K18) was founded in 2020 and is located in San Francisco. Its debut ingredient is a synbio biometric peptide, branded as the K18Peptide, which was identified through the examination of keratin DNA. The company now has a full range of haircare products that are marketed under the K18 brand, including shampoos and hair repair treatments.


Geltor is a California developer of synbio collagen and other ingredients for the personal care products industry. In a 2021 New GMO Alert, we detailed Geltor’s launch of several synbio collagen products, including Primacoll, Collume, and HumaColl21. 

Geltor has since expanded its offerings to include three additional synbio products. These include NuColl/NuColl Pro, a synbio animal replacement collagen for hair care products; Elastapure, a synbio human elastin replacement for use in body and personal care products; and the newest offering, Caviance, a synbio polypeptide that mimics Type II sturgeon collagen for use in skin care products. Some of these products are marketed under Geltor’s "The Elements of Skin" branding for its line of synbio human proteins.

Sestina Bio/Inscripta

Founded in 2020, Sestina Bio (Sestina) is a relatively new synbio developer in the personal care products space. That being said, in October 2022, the company announced the development of its first product, bakuchiol, a synbio version of an antiaging ingredient that reportedly rivals the antioxidant properties of retinol but with fewer side effects. Sestina developed its synbio bakuchiol in less than a year using Inscripta’s Onyx genome editing platform. In early 2023, Sestina was acquired by Inscripta

Non-GMO Project’s Standard defines all crops and products developed using biotechnology, including new gene-editing techniques, as GMOs. We share this information to further one of the Project’s primary goals of creating greater transparency in the supply chain, ensuring you have the information you need to make the best choices for you, your brand, and your family. 

Please note that the information herein is for general informational purposes only and is based on the linked sources above.

The Non-GMO Project is a 510c3 nonprofit dedicated to protecting and promoting non-GMO alternatives. New GMO Alerts is supported by funding from readers like you. Donate today

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