Of Renmatix and All These Pivots

May 1, 2019 |

Pennsylvania bioeconomy pioneers debuts Celltice, a “Petro-Free Breakthrough in Clean Cosmetic Formulations”

From Pennsylvania, comes the news that Renmatix is introducing Celltice, its “zero-chemical self-emulsifying active,” built from cellulose and lignin, and aimed at the clean beauty movement towards petro-free, plant-based ingredients for clean cosmetics with minimalist formulations, seeking sustainable, cruelty-free ingredients that also deliver comparable or superior performance to traditional ingredients.  It’s billed as a “a cost-advantaged, high-performing, multi-functional ingredient,” which hits just about all of the high notes.

Celltice’s key benefits include:

  • Gently fostering skin health. With a high oil absorptive capacity that controls the formation of sebum, Celltice delivers a more matte and healthy skin complexion after just one use, showing a 45 percent reduction in sebum in clinical studies following 30 minutes of application. Celltice also addresses dry and flaky appearance of the skin by accelerating gentle skin turnover and exfoliation, with clinical trials showing a 66 percent reduction in dry skin after only 30 minutes post-application, as measured by the D-Squame assay.
  • Protecting against environmental stress. Celltice functions as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant shield for the skin when subjected to environmental pressures, even when used at low levels. In an ex-vivo model study, Celltice was proven to significantly shield against free radical (Reactive Oxygen Species) formation induced by blue light. When applied 24 hours before UV exposure, Celltice also has a pronounced protective effect on the skin by preventing the formation of pro-inflammatory cytokines IL-1α and PGE-2.
  • Enabling indulgent textures. Celltice’s micellar-free approach uses a novel Pickering mechanism to stabilize the interface between water and oil phases, enabling superior textures, from lightweight sprayable lotions to rich hydrating night creams, without requiring any chemically derived emulsifiers. Effective even at low levels, Celltice can efficiently emulsify a wide variety of oil soluble ingredients with ease, including nourishing plant oils, seed butters and active UV filters. 

“Historically, scientists have failed to extract cellulose and lignin in the form in which Mother Nature created them, and have resorted to using harsh chemicals that materially altered their compositions and dramatically limited their functions,” said Renmatix CEO Mike Hamilton. “Without the use of any harsh chemicals or solvents, Renmatix is able to release these building blocks of nature to create an entirely new material that delivers multiple functional benefits.”  

The Spinners and Pivoters and Twisters and the Turners

You probably remember that Renmatix was going to make cellulosic sugars, and you’ll see Kiverdi highlighting its CO2 to protein technology, and Oakbio getting new investment and a new identity — now named NovoNutrients and avowedly aimed at protein for aquaculture — fish feed, specifically, from CO2. And you might recall that former Codexis CEO Alan Shaw’s latest venture, Calysta, is making fish feed from methane. Just to name a few.

When I think upon the state of the bioeconomy, my mind often drifts to the images of a ballroom scene from the Golden Age of Hollywood in which a hundred couples are with great synchronicity spinning to the strains of The Blue Danube.

It was fuels before it was chemicals, corn before it was algae, MSW before it was natural gas as a feedstock, conventional before it was cellulosic, drop-in before it was novel, and plastics before it was advanced foods.

They say the Danube never really looks blue except to young couples in love, and some of the niches into which ventures have thrown themselves into have never looked very promising except to the hardy group of technological pioneers we know as Venture A, or is it Venture B. But they’ve been grinding out the moves and selling the turns.

The problem of course is that consumers and strategics are interested in applications, but what investors own are technologies, and when the economics don’t work out or the timelines begin to get stretched beyond the ability of ventures to tolerate the crush imposed by the time value of money, you get a big case of the spins, which sometimes are elegantly done, as in the case of Renmatix — after all, it’s really just a case of Renmatix taking its core Plantrose process and developing something that can specifically be handed off to a formulator, not much pivoting there, more like a case of thoughtful extending. The messaging around it feels a little more spinny, but that’s more about the Prose than the Plantrose.

Others feel like the spins induced by drinking too much fraternity beer — sudden, hard to control, and sickening.

We consumers pivot from technology to technology in search of sustainable alternatives, and technologists pivot from niche to niche in search of something to make that will make money. It’s a Heartbreak Hotel.

The Soundtrack for these times

You can chart an astonishing number of the companies in the sector inside the career of the phenomenal 2000s Danish band, the Raveonettes. It wasYou Want the Candy before it was Love in A Trashcan and it was Recharge & Revolt before the investors were signaling Time’s Up, and there was a period of In and Out of Control before it was Gone Forever, and with every spin along the way the publicity machines were pouring out That Great Love Sound.

Here comes the Billion Dollar Valuation again

These days the big fad is in nutrition and Beyond Meat is expected shortly to debut on NASDAQ with a billion dollar valuation with its “meat without the cow” technology, and along the road one of these days we might see Impossible Foods or other of the ilk, or the purveyors of “milk without the cow”, or “Leather without the cow”, or “eggs without the chicken,” or “superfoods for kiddies” or “wheat without the gluten” ringing the bell on some stock exchange or another, on the day of a celebrated IPO.

Every one of these applications is a great idea and more power to those who have the technology to pull it off, and anyone would be a fool to let the wave pass by and not try to catch a ride if the technology has a chance of delivering.

After all, food is big and cosmetics are big and the search for new sensations is nothing unfamiliar to companies or consumers, and if you reflect that there’s about ten cents of sugar in a four dollar box of Corn Flakes, and a few pennies of active ingredient in your average skin cream, the margins and mark-ups that are available for market winners that get a foothold on the  shelf are exactly the Get Out of Fuels Free card that some investors have been seeking. Ever since some of them figured out that beating petroleum refining on cost is not as easy as it looked. So, more power to all of them.

But sometimes you look at the press releases in the in-box with the surprise that David Cassidy felt when he was auditioning for his breakthrough role in the Partridge Family and bumped into his real-life stepmother, Shirley Jones, at the production office. “What are you doing here?” he asked her. “I’m the mother. What are you doing here? she replied.

Unexpected encounters can work out great, even if they are unexpected. We sure find ourselves surprised to hear about Celltice, which shows you just never know where the bioeconomy is going to head next. That’s half of the allure and half of the danger, right there.

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