When two Princeton graduate students came together with the goal of using biology to improve products and make them more sustainable, Geltor was born.
Geltor, based in San Leandro, California, produces the protein collagen without animals. Collagen is found in a variety of foods, personal-care products and other items, such as shampoos, body lotions, strings for musical instruments and gelatin.
Alex Lorestani and Nick Ouzounov, the co-founders of Geltor, met in 2012 in the molecular biology department at Princeton University. They began to use fermentation to produce collagen in a San Francisco lab called IndieBio, which provides $250,000 in funding and a four-month program to jump-start their business.
The process is similar to how beer is fermented. Geltor scientists take carbon, nitrogen and oxygen and convert them into collagen using microbial fermentation.
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"If you're able to shrink yourself down and dive into it Magic School Bus-style, what you would see is basically a broth that is in the beginning really full of basically plant-based nutrients that are then being converted and pumped out into the broth into collagen," Lorestani said. "You'd basically be sitting inside of a little factory that is really focused on building this one particular thing very efficiently."
After the collagen is extracted, it can be used in liquid form or made into a powder to be used in consumer products. The company is currently focused on cosmetics and consumer care, though it is interested in branching out into other fields, such as medicine and nutrition.
The company now has 17 full-time employees, and it secured $2.25 million in additional funding in 2016.