Competitive Edge: HelioBioSys, Inc.

May 7, 2020 |

Q: What was the reason for founding your organization – what was the open niche you saw that could be addressed with a new product or service? What was the problem, or gap, or opportunity?

We formed HelioBioSys to reduce the carbon footprint of fuels and other biomaterials. We initially targeted ethanol production via a genetically modified cyanobacterium but realized this process was not commercially viable. We then developed and patented a community of non-genetically modified cyanobacteria to produce fermentable sugars as feedstock for ethanol production. This also proved to be commercially untenable, but further work revealed that the material properties of the extracellular polysaccharide (EPS) and other metabolites produced by the cyanobacterial community were more commercially valuable as intact molecules with applications ranging from biomaterials to cosmetics.

We are currently pursuing our own brand of natural, safe and effective skin and sun care products based on these metabolites. The algae-based market natural beauty market was $12B in 2016 with an expected 5.3% CAGR through 2023, although the luxury segment is expected to continue growing 20% annually.

Q: Tell us about your organization. What do you do?

We patented a community of marine cyanobacteria that produce several metabolites that can be combined into safe, effective, multi-functional skin care products. These metabolites include mycosporine like amino acids (MAA), extracellular polysaccharides, and phycocyanins. Collectively these compounds provide cosmetic formulators ingredients with UV protective, moisturizing, anti-aging, anti-oxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties, all from a single, sustainable source.

We have secured over $600,000 in non-dilutive support, primarily through US DOE grants that enabled us to scale our cultivation process and refine downstream processing technologies. Through friends and family, we have secured IP and maintained a small laboratory facility. We have engaged in business accelerator programs including the Clean Tech Open, regional and national NSF I-Corps, C2M and Carbon 180. These opportunities informed our commercialization strategy and fostered a number of key industry relationships.

Q: What stage of development are you?

Pilot stage – proven at small, non-integrated scale.

Q: What do your technologies, products or services do and accomplish – how does it (they) work, who is it (they) aimed for?

We bring value to the rapidly growing “clean beauty” trend by providing safe, high-performing, multi-functional skin care products based on cyanobacterial metabolites. The extracellular polysaccharide and phycocyanin provide valued properties for skin care, however the demand for safer, alternative UV absorbing compounds brings the most value to our products. The US FDA is reviewing the safety of current sunscreen ingredients. Hawai’i has banned two UV-absorbing chemicals over concerns about damage to coral reefs.

Nature has provided an evolutionarily tested family of compounds that could replace current ingredients. Our value proposition is to incorporate them into the multi-functional skin care products being sought by consumers around the globe. Increased consumer confidence in sun care products will improve compliance with regular application and help mitigate the growing incidence of skin cancers and melanoma.

Q: Competitively, what gives your technology, product or service set an edge in cost or performance, sustainability, or any other aspect, that makes it stand out from the crowd, In short, what makes it transformative?

The rapidly growing natural beauty market is being pursued by many major and indie brands. Major brands, such as SC Johnson, DSM, Givaudan and Mibelle, have embraced natural ingredients and sustainability in their product lines. Particularly relevant are brands that use algae- and bacteria-derived ingredients, or ingredients derived from the ocean.

Algenist has developed a product line based on an algal polysaccharide that they have successfully marketed as algauronic acid. Mibelle has developed an MAA ingredient, Helioguard 365, although it has no regulatory approval as an SPF ingredient. HelioNori is another MAA ingredient provided by the French company Gelyma that markets it as natural UVA protection.

What separates HelioBiosSys from our competitors is the multi functionality of our products, they are moisturizing, anti-inflammatory, anti-photoaging and UV absorbing all from a single source. Extraction and purification of MAAs at commercial scale will transform the sun care industry.

Q: What are the 3 top milestones you have accomplished in the past 3 years?

  1. Secured two US DOE grants (Small Business Vouchers Pilot and BioSeparations Consortium) that enabled us to scale our technology to 1000L raceway ponds, develop separation and purification protocols for the 3 key metabolites, and evaluate commercial opportunities using TEA tools.
  2. Awarded two NSF grants for the regional and national I-Corps programs that resulted in over 140 customer discovery interviews and significantly improved our commercialization strategy. This lead us to our current focus on bringing our own cosmetic line of skin and sun care products directly to consumers.
  3. Developed a research program for isolation and purification of MAAs using an emerging technology. Authored an NSF STTR grant application, with two key partners, to pursue this technology application. We are also seeking additional financial support to accomplish this work outside of grant funding.

Q: What are the 3 top milestones you will accomplish in the next 3 years?

  1. Isolate, characterize and purify the UV protective metabolite in sufficient quantity to incorporate it into a sun care product. Demonstrate the efficacy of all 3 key ingredients for skin protection as well as incorporate all of them into multiple skin and sun care formulations in order to test the safety and efficacy of the formulations and develop a unique and compelling brand identity.
  2. Have a fully functional pilot plant producing ingredients that are manufactured into final formulated products. Initially use an existing outdoor cultivation facility and integrate our downstream processing and purification systems into that facility.
  3. Develop and market our brand to a level that attracts a major brand strategic partner in order to expand into the global market, address regulatory challenges, and expand to a fully integrated commercial facility.

Q: Where can I learn more about HelioBioSys, Inc.?

Click here to visit HelioBioSys, Inc.’s website.

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