(p. B4) The multibillion-dollar push to make animals obsolete in the food industry has already produced pea-protein “bratwurst,” fungus molded into “ham” and “leather,” and “meat” cultured from chicken cells. Geltor, a seven-year-old company based in the Bay Area, is taking a different tack: bioengineering bacteria cells to produce animal proteins you’ll likely never taste.
Geltor is producing forms of collagen they say are identical to the proteins extracted from skin and bones. For now, those vegan collagens can be found in high-end skin care creams. But as the company grows, it’s eyeing other ingredients few Americans associate with animal farming, such as the elastin in your shampoo, the collagen peptides in your smoothie, and even the gelatin (which is hydrolyzed, or slightly broken-down, collagen) in your marshmallows. Alex Lorestani, co-founder and chief executive of Geltor, likes to talk about how the company’s proteins impose a lighter burden on the environment than the meat industry. The challenge, however, is how the company gets to the scale necessary to exert that kind of impact.
In 2012, Dr. Lorestani and co-founder Nick Ouzounov, both 35, were both pursuing doctorates in molecular biology at Princeton University when the invention of Crispr turbocharged the field of bio-design. “We can bio-design medicine,” Dr. Lorestani recalled discussing with his labmates that summer. “Why can’t we bio-design everything?”
Dr. Ouzounov eventually came up with a method — which he and Dr. Lorestani, in typical Bay Area techspeak, call “a platform” — for genetically modifying bacteria cells to reproduce a wide variety of animal proteins, a process that biotech firms are calling “precision fermentation.” In 2015, the two scientists formed Geltor.
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(Note: the online version of the story has the date August 2, 2022, and has the title “Is Bio-Designed Collagen the Next Step in Animal Protein Replacement?”)