PARIS – L’Oréal is bolstering its presence in North America’s innovation ecosystem by partnering with University of California Berkeley’s Bakar Labs, a biotech incubator, with the aim of furthering biotech innovation.
Bakar Labs’ startups will have access to L’Oréal’s Research and Innovation resources and expertise in fields such as skin biology. For the beauty giant, the tie-in is expected to give learnings from the early-stage biotech companies to expand the group’s product lineup.
“Biotech is an integral part of our present and future at L’Oréal,” explained Barbara Lavernos, deputy chief executive officer, in charge of research, innovation and technology at L’Oréal. “It propels us to understand and harness nature’s secrets in an ethical and sustainable manner: Already 61 percent of our ingredients are bio-based or from abundant mineral sources, and we aim to reach 95 percent by 2030.”
“This partnership focuses on pioneering the next generation of beauty products, leveraging the science of the microbiome and other advanced biological technologies,” L’Oréal said in a statement.
“This collaboration allows us to further expand and power the best startups with alternative testing solutions for a world without animal testing,” said Lavernos. “L’Oréal has been at the forefront of non-animal methods for over 40 years, and we believe that scientific and regulatory advancement of non-animal methods is only possible through multidisciplinary cooperation.
“That’s why we’re offering Bakar Labs free access to our proprietary 3D reconstructed skin models for safety and efficacy testing,” she said. “We’ve been pioneering this technology for over 25 years and producing it at a high scale. It is a robust ethical alternative to animal testing and a powerful tool to support new discoveries, while accelerating their development.”
Lavernos quoted Steve Jobs as saying: “The future of humanity lies at the intersection of biology and tech.”
“This is precisely the goal of our 3D reconstructed skin models for a world without animal testing and alternative models,” she said.
The partnership will focus on driving personalized innovations, improving skin health and focusing on specific skin concerns with more effective and innovative solutions, according to L’Oréal.
In addition to sharing reconstructed skin models, Lavernos said: “As Bakar has a rich ecosystem of startups in the realm of skin microbiome and advanced biological technologies, such as SynBio – synthetic biology – we hope to also create mutual collaborations around new technologies that can power the strong commitments of L’Oréal to sustainable and green science innovations,” said Lavernos.
Bakar Labs are in the Bakar BioEnginuity Hub on the university campus and have more than 40,000-square feet of lab and office space housing up to 50 startups at once. Those span a number of disciplines, including therapeutics, diagnostics and food and agricultural tech.
“This collaboration will provide valuable resources and expertise to our tenant companies, and allow us to work alongside L’Oréal to advance the biotechnology fields across pharmaceutical and beauty industries,” said David Schaffer, professor at UC Berkeley and director of Bakar Labs.
L’Oréal R&I Open Innovation strategy includes tie-ins with a number of academic institutions and startups in domains such as biotech.
L’Oréal is the first beauty company to collaborate with Bakar Labs.
“This collaboration is another significant step in our global commitment to foster innovation through partnerships, specifically in the field of biotech that we believe is a strong lever to accelerate our innovation roadmap in green sciences,” said Lavernos.
In North America, L’Oréal recently invested in the likes of Debut, specializing in “cell-free” manufacturing, and the Geno-led initiative centered on developing, producing and commercializing biotech-based alternatives to key beauty product ingredients. It also has ongoing partnership with Verily, an Alphabet company.
“But our door doesn’t close here,” said Lavernos. “We are always open to new collaborations that align with our vision and values. Our driving forces is to move closer to the collective goal of delivering the best of beauty to consumers, fostering a more responsible, inclusive and innovative industry.”
Biotech is a key tenant of L’Oréal’s Green Sciences strategy.
“With green sciences, we are developing a new paradigm with nature front and center,” said Lavernos. “This revolution happening within our labs blends biology and technology to create high-performance beauty products that increasingly respect our planet’s limits.”
L’Oréal earmarks more than 1 billion euros for R&I yearly.
“Our engagement with biotech also plays a central role in reaching our L’Oréal for the Future 2030 commitments, which revolve around our impact on climate change, sustainable water management, preservation of biodiversity and circular use of resources,” said Lavernos. “As we continue to explore and leverage biotech advancement, we remain true to our sense of purpose to ‘create the beauty that moves the world.’”