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Microalgae Make a Splash in the UK Cosmeceutical Market

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The research is the first in a series of projects, funded by the Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC), which highlight how industrial biotechnology (IB), the process of using natural resources to create new chemicals and ingredients, could increase the UK economy’s share of the predicted £360bn global IB market.

The algae, Prasinococcus capsulatus, has natural anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties, making them optimum for use in the cosmetics and nutraceutical markets, potentially in sunscreens, moisturisers and wound care products. The ingredients are completely natural – unlike many cosmetic ingredients – and are highly sustainable as production requires only seawater, light and CO2. Products containing these ingredients could be available to consumers within three years.

Microalgae is just one example of a resource which could serve as the ‘raw ingredient’ for industrial biotechnology projects. In the future, items we use everyday could be made with biological components, from the plastic bottles we drink from to the fuel we put into our cars; all of which are currently heavily reliant on chemicals and fossil fuels. With the global population set to reach 7.7bn by 2020, sustainable alternatives are a critical outcome that IB can help to deliver.

As a specialist in the industrial biotechnology sector, the IBioIC works with more than 50 companies and 200 academics to help stimulate the growth and success of the industry in Scotland and the wider UK, adding an estimated £400million to the Scottish economy alone in industrial biotechnology sales by 2020.

Roger Kilburn, CEO of IBioIC said: “Projects like this bring to life exactly what a difference IB can make. We can take something as simple as algae, which you’d find in a pond or the sea and create products with real healthcare benefits that are sustainable and have a high market value. Almost every market can use IB to create something new, it’s our job to match industry and academic partners to make this happen and speed up the process.”

Following the success of the project, IBioIC member Glycomar Ltd and MicroA have formed Prasinotech Ltd, the first algae refinery in the world built to manufacture these polysaccharides from microalgae. Registered in Scotland, Prasinotech will have a major role in Scotland’s economy and will be the first company to grow from IBioIC support, which aims to incubate 7 start-ups by 2020. The first two products from Prasinotech Ltd will be active ingredients for use in cosmetic skincare which have a combined annual value of £1m in the third year of production.

IBioIC will be funding a further IB Accelerator Programme in association with Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, which supports aims to support the development of new products and manufacturing processes in IB, bringing them closer to industrial reality.