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Chemistry, Materials & Packaging
Next-Generation Beauty:
How Nature-Inspired Biotech Is Evolving Ethical Skincare

Modern Meadow’s Bio-Coll@gen offers a solution to a long-standing cosmetic and skincare challenge: finding a safe, sustainable and scalable replacement for animal-derived collagen.

Modern Meadow — embedded in a biotech campus in Nutley, New Jersey — recently invited Sustainable Brands® to tour its Beauty Lab to spotlight its flagship ingredient for the beauty & wellness industry: Modern Meadow Bio-Coll@gen™.

It’s here that the bio-design technology company is working to reinvent how society produces sustainable alternatives to a host of common ingredients for the materials, personal care and biomedical industries.

Modern Meadow Beauty Lab has developed a solution to a long-standing cosmetic and skin care challenge: finding a safe, sustainable and scalable replacement for animal-derived collagen. While animal collagen has historically been abundant and cost-effective, it has drawbacks — including the risk of infectious disease, viral vector transmission and allergenicity.

There are 28 known collagen types. Modern Meadow Bio-Coll@gen replicates Human Type III Collagen — also known as the “youth collagen” for its vital role in keeping human skin, organs and other tissues healthy, stable and elastic — making it a staple ingredient in many beauty, personal care and pharmaceutical products.

Existing alternatives have been unable to match the efficacy of animal collagen, until now. Modern Meadow’s Bio-Coll@gen is precisely fermented as Human Type III Collagen, which youthful bodies use to maintain healthy skin. Because it is sustainably sourced from non-animal origins, Bio-Coll@gen is both environmentally friendly and bio-active. It promotes the skin’s natural ability to produce its own Collagen III, providing powerful anti-aging factors.

“Collagen only occurs naturally in animals — historically, it has been extracted from fish, pigs, and cattle,” said Jason O’Neill, SVP & General Manager of Modern Meadow Beauty & Wellness. “In addition to being a multi-step and resource-intensive extraction process, it comes with some of animal agriculture’s most environmentally damaging side effects — particularly, deforestation — and it remains one of the few animal-sourced ingredients in cosmetic and skin care products.”

To replicate Collagen III in a lab, Modern Meadow engineered yeast strains through precision fermentation — a more ‘precise’ version of the time-tested process used to create beer, cheese, bread, pickles and other foods throughout history.

By growing these proteins from yeast, Modern Meadow bypasses the impacts of conventional, animal-based extraction methods — providing the cosmetics industry with a more ethically sourced and sustainable building block for personal-care products that is molecularly identical to the naturally occurring version. The bioactive is available in either a liquid solution or in dry-packed form for inclusion by brand partners in a wide range of beauty and wellness products.

"Replicating Human Type III Collagen was a deliberate choice for Modern Meadow, driven by its intricate and synergistic contribution to overall human health and wellness," expressed Chief Science and Technology Officer David Williamson said during the tour. "This distinctive advantage sets us apart; and it’s why our partners choose to work with us.”

Cultivating a niche

Like many science and technology companies, Modern Meadow underwent extensive exploration to find its optimal business model. According to Williamson, the deep-science company deliberated extensively on whether to develop and market its beauty and wellness products or establish itself as a sustainable-ingredient technology platform, partnering with brands and distributors to incorporate sustainable elements into its offerings.

Ultimately, the B2B model emerged as the prevailing choice. Today, Modern Meadow has emerged as a purpose-driven biotechnology leader with technology-application platforms powered by proteins. These innovations facilitate scientific advancements and provide sustainable solutions to partners keen on mitigating risks associated with materials and ingredients contributing to climate change, biodiversity loss and other environmental challenges.

By adopting this approach, Modern Meadow has leveraged its decision to implement the drop-in technology partnership model for the Bio-Coll@gen platform — offering sustainable solutions that prioritize both performance and scalability. This strategy predominantly focuses on short-chain, peptide-centered collagen solutions — allowing for swift production by co-manufacturers without significant capital investments, while ensuring complete supply chain traceability.

Williamson firmly believes that Bio-Coll@gen and its unwavering commitment to scientific advancement give Modern Meadow a competitive advantage in this space. Through collaboration with prominent beauty and wellness brands, the company is dedicated to expediting progress and addressing the prevailing challenges in the rapidly growing field of anti-aging, all while prioritizing sustainability.

This strategic direction has proven fruitful, as Modern Meadow recently launched a partnership with Evonik — one of the world's largest specialty biochemistry companies — centered around Bio-Coll@gen. Evonik highlighted Modern Meadow's strong sustainability credentials as pivotal in its decision to forge the partnership.

Tracking impact

Modern Meadow recently released its first impact report, demonstrating its commitment to transparency through lifecycle assessments (LCA) — the gold standard for measuring the environmental impacts of products. More specifically, the company is using “hotspot analysis” to inform product design decisions and conducting full LCAs for finished products to precisely measure the environmental impacts of each unit of product — which includes the extraction of raw materials, energy inputs, transport, environmental impacts associated with production processes, and more.

It’s worth noting that companies of this size (Modern Meadow has just over 100 employees) typically don’t publish comprehensive impact reports or do complete LCAs — in fact, nearly 50 percent of the world’s largest companies don’t publish impact or sustainability reports at all; and the vast majority still do not do LCAs for their products (however, new regulations in Europe and the US may soon change that) — so, its proactive approach is commendable.

While Modern Meadow continues to collect comprehensive LCA data for Bio-Coll@gen, the company has already made significant strides in sustainability measurement by publishing a full LCA in the Journal of Cleaner and Circular Bioeconomy for its Bioleather prototype material family — produced through its Bio-Alloy™ platform; the study revealed a reduction of over 90 percent in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions compared to traditional, chrome-tanned leather.

While Williamson acknowledged that Modern Meadow is still in the early stages of impact assessment, he emphasized that the company is determined to continue showcasing its positive impact on the environment and supply chains through rigorous measurement and transparency.