Biotech company develops ‘first-of-its-kind’ retinol derivative for cosmetic & PBC product formulation

By Cassandra Stern

- Last updated on GMT

“These compounds introduce flexibility, enabling cosmetic formulators to incorporate a secondary function, which presents opportunities for inventive features that uniquely enhance cosmetic formulations,” stated the Conagen press release. © Conagen
“These compounds introduce flexibility, enabling cosmetic formulators to incorporate a secondary function, which presents opportunities for inventive features that uniquely enhance cosmetic formulations,” stated the Conagen press release. © Conagen

Related tags retinoids Skin care biotech

The retinoid-derivative ingredients, which can be combined with a secondary ingredient for further efficacy or improved effectiveness, are a novel option for manufacturers looking to avoid the potential unwanted secondary effects of traditional retinoids.

Yesterday, Massachusetts-based biotechnology company Conagen announced it has developed what the company describes as the “first-of-its-kind, natural-sourced class of sustainable retinol derivative ingredients through precision fermentation​” for cosmetic and personal beauty care product formulations, as detailed its press release​.

Conagen, which was founded in 2010 by biochemist Dr. Oliver Yu, specializes in the innovation and development of “synthetic biology solutions for supporting global partners across a spectrum of current and developing markets​” including the cosmetics and personal beauty care product industries, as detailed on the company’s website.

About the innovation

The newly developed retinoid derivative ingredient is produced by through a precision fermentation process that covalently binds retinoids with a second active ingredient, which results in a single molecule, the press release explained. This production process utilizes a 100% renewable carbon source and the manufacturing process “technology offers consumers functionalities that extend beyond wrinkle reduction and anti-aging benefits​.”

Further, Conagen’s retinoid variants are innovative in their adaptability – depending on the secondary ingredient, “these compounds introduce flexibility, enabling cosmetic formulators to incorporate a secondary function, which presents opportunities for inventive features that uniquely enhance cosmetic formulations​,” added the release. These retinoid variants are compatible with other compounds including “squalene, bakuchiol, and pomegranate extract, maximizing delivery and effectiveness while minimizing potential off-target effects​.”

Conagen’s proprietary precision fermentation process results in improved stability of the retinoid derivative ingredients, which can “aid in the formulation of low-irritation retinol products​” and “enable cosmetic products to ensure a consistent and extended release of retinol, resulting in long-lasting effects on the skin​,” the release said. This can solve a major pain point for cosmetic and personal care product manufacturers looking to formulate products with traditional retinoids, which are known for their potential to cause irritation like peeling, redness, tightness, or unwanted dryness in the skin.

About the innovative ingredient formulation process, VP of Flavors and Fragrances, Yisheng Wu, Ph.D. at Conagen shared that “this new development empowers cosmetic formulators to create products that excel in both performance and innovation, aligning with the ever-evolving demands of today's discerning consumers​.” Further, added Wu, “by providing enhanced stability, controlled release, and multifunctional capabilities, Conagen's retinoid derivatives redefine the possibilities within the cosmetic industry​.”

Future potential & looking ahead

The success of this retinol innovation originates from the unique high-yield carotenoid platform led by Wu, who has worked on the project for years​,” the release explained. Historically, this platform has focused on innovations based on “numerous widely utilized carotenoid compounds, including beta-carotene and astaxanthin​,” but this technology has now been adapted to introduce “additional steps in the metabolic pathway​” to produce retinol ingredients efficiently, the release continued.

Moving forward, “Conagen is ready to commercialize these retinoid ingredients in 2024​,” Wu stated, adding that “beauty and personal care brands seeking the newest technology in retinol formulation flexibility are encouraged to explore Conagen’s retinoid ingredients​.” This is particularly significant, Wu concluded, “as the cosmetic industry undergoes transformation toward clean and sustainable​” ingredient options, offering manufacturers the opportunity to manufacture and produce new products that will “contribute to a new era in cosmetic formulation​.”

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