The novel, clean label, sustainable, and functional ingredient branded Zellulin is targeted for skin care and personal care products such as creams, serums.
Avant’s co-founder and CEO Carrie Chan explained Zellulin can help counteract oxidation which would be applicable for anti-ageing applications and potentially wound healing and dressing.
In the form of a freeze-dried powder, it is water soluble, odour-free, and non-GM.
Avant first entered the cultivated industry with its cell-based fish maw prototype in 2019 and most recently, a fish fillet prototype.
With growing demand for clean label skin care products, the company was inspired to produce the ingredient using its cell-based technology, which is essentially a soluble tank of fish cells, in a controlled environment.
Zellulin is obtained from the same cell line as its food prototypes.
Chan said its method can reduce the need to slaughter fish and reduce dependence on the fish supply chain.
One of the proteins obtained is collagen, which is extracted from fish skin and bones. It is then treated with chemicals and turned into peptide powder for used in foods, cosmetics or other applications.
However, this extraction process is typically aggressive in order to purify the functional protein.
Avant says its method allows a milder extraction process within a controlled environment to retain the natural functionalities of marine protein.
It hopes the method will eventually provide a cost-effective, energy efficient, and sustainable source of protein and collagen.
Chan now wants to work with cosmetic companies to incorporate the ingredient into skin care, and is considering to get halal certification this year.
This year, Avant is building a pilot site either in Singapore or Hong Kong, citing the former for its conducive environment, strong talents, and good ecosystem.
However, COVID-19 restrictions continue to change globally, and the firm is shuttling between both countries to find the perfect set-up.
Regardless of the pilot plant location, Hong Kong will continue to house its cell lines.
The plan is to build a small scale 5L reactor first, and increase to 100 to 200L by the end of 2021. This will ensure enough samples for potential clients to test the product.
The firm hopes to increase this to 1,000 to 2,000L, which would be sufficient in catering to orders from skin care companies.
Avant is planning a soft launch of Zellulin later this month.
In the future, the firm is also considering the ingredient for use in wound healing products, although this would be researched upon after its pilot plant is up and running. This is because wound healing products require higher standards, compared to cosmetic standards.
In December 2020, Avant announced a US$3.1 million seed funding round to accelerate R&D to continue lowering production costs.
For its food prototypes, the firm hopes to reach price parity similar to plant-based meats by 2023.
China investors including China Venture Capital, AngelHub, and ParticleX, as well as western alternative protein investors Lever VC, CPT Capital, Loyal VC, Artesian, and 208 Seed Ventures participated in the funding round.
Strategic food investors PTG Food, a consortium of fast-growing and progressive food businesses across Asia Pacific with a global reach, and Markus Haefeli, Chairman of Regal Springs, the world’s largest responsible tilapia producer, also participated in the round.
“We will explore opportunities in the APAC region, partner sustainable seafood or ingredient companies and respective governments to create a sustainable alternative protein chain, that is price competitive, tasty, healthy and functional,” Chan said.
*The article was updated to reflect Zellulin as a multifunctional protein