Whether it is replicating skin tissue or biomass using 3-D printing technology, enhancing the efficacy of active ingredients, or facilitating the ease of formulation, biotechnology is opening up new avenues to formulators on a daily basis.
Then there is green biotechnology, which has made a big impact in the agricultural sector, while in the cosmetics and personal care world it is being increasingly used to replicate natural ingredients as well as to raise the sustainability and green credentials of any number of materials.
It is not that the technology is new, the term was fist coined by Hungarian engineer Károlov Ereky in 1919, but in the last 20 years it has expanded to encompass areas such as recombinant gene techniques and genomics, many of which have been adopted by the cosmetics world, having the most apparent impact in the anti-aging field.
Underlining the increasing influence that the technology is having on our industry is a steady stream of investments and acquisitions in companies focused on biotechnology, which is the driving force behind a growing array of ingredients and finished products, all enhanced by the technology.
Race to invest in biotechnology
Both brand owners and ingredients players are racing to invest in some of the most interesting biotechnology players as a means of staying ahead in the innovation game.
Only last week Japanese ingredients player Fujifilm announced the invested of $307m in biotechnology company CDI, which specializes in regenerative medicine and functional skin care.
CDI manufactures multiple human cell types at an industrial scale and currently serves customers working in cellular therapeutics, drug discovery and other biopharmaceutical ventures, and Fujifilm will be looking to provide these services to its many cosmetics customers, mainly in the Japan market.
Acquisitions like this are now commonplace, with ingredients provider SEPPIC, acquiring Biotech Marine player BiotechMarine and skin care provider Nu Skin buying up NOX Technologies, all in the space of the past few years.
3-D printed technology raises the bar further
There is good reason for investing in biotechnology, as technological advances are pushing the boundaries of cosmetics innovation on an almost daily basis, whether it is enhancing the efficacy of anti-aging ingredients, or reproducing scarce natural ingredients in the lab, without having to endanger biodiversity or availability.
But, as ever, the latest innovations go a step further. Now it is 3-D printer technology that is serving to stretch the boundaries of biotechnology to new limits, with the latest research out of Germany showing that 3-D printed algae is now a reality, thanks to the use of hydrogel substructures.
Scientists at the Dresden University of Technology say the discovery means that both living cells and organic molecules can be replicated, with the potential for many applications in the cosmetics arena.
Likewise, the use of 3-D printed technology is also about to make 3-D printed skin a reality, evinced by the fact that 3-D bioprinting company Oganovo is currently working together with L’Oréal on a project that will ultimately lead to the use of skin samples for safety testing of products.
Not so long ago the idea of skin in a bottle would have been laughed at, but maybe not today.