Hong Kong cell-based protein start-up Avant extends reach from faux meat to US$52.5 billion global anti-ageing products market

Peggy Sito
·3-min read

Avant Meats, Hong Kong’s first cell-based protein start-up, is using its cell culture biotechnology to make inroads into the anti-ageing product market.

The company, founded by Carrie Chan Kai-yi in Hong Kong Science Park in 2018, has launched a cell-based functional protein product for the cosmeceutical ingredient market. The product contains multifunctional marine protein peptides that promote antioxidation, regeneration and repair skin more effectively than collagen, Chan said.

“There is a whole group of animal-based ingredients commonly used in skincare products nowadays. We just use the cell culture method to produce these ingredients,” she said. Avant’s method does not require acres of land, live animals, their slaughter and various other complicated processes to produce collagen, a popular ingredient for skincare products, she added.

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The global market for anti-ageing products was estimated to be worth US$52.5 billion last year, and was projected to reach a revised size of US$83.2 billion by 2027, growing at a compounded annual growth rate of 6.8 per cent over the analysis period of 2020-2027, according to Dublin-based online research platform Research and Markets.

Moreover, Avant, which has been targeting local gastronomic tastes for seafood, will be able to commercialise skincare protein products in a shorter period of time. The company said the philosophy guiding its skincare ingredient product was in line with that of its cell-based foods, which is to produce functional, safe and sustainably cultivated products in a fully contained environment.

Carrie Chan Kai-yi, the founder of Avant Meats. Photo: Handout
Carrie Chan Kai-yi, the founder of Avant Meats. Photo: Handout

Avant, which raised US$3.1 million in seed funding last year, has been focusing on developing cultivated fish maw and sea cucumber, and in November showcased Asia’s first fish fillet cultured directly using fish cells. Cultured meat has evolved in recent years. It is meat created through exponential cell growth in bioreactors, from cells extracted from living animals.

In the medium term, skincare ingredients could become a source of revenue for the company, before the commercialisation of its cell-based fish fillet, Chan said.

“As it is not a drug or special function chemical, it does not require pre-market approvals,” she said. “That said, we are finishing some third-party tests to provide a bit more information to our buyers on top of our own in-house test data. As of now, data and information in hand is good for business discussions,” Chan said.

Avant’s cultivated fish maw bites in a potato croquette. The company has been focusing on developing cultivated fish maw and sea cucumber. Photo: Handout
Avant’s cultivated fish maw bites in a potato croquette. The company has been focusing on developing cultivated fish maw and sea cucumber. Photo: Handout

The anti-ageing and cosmetics market has been attracting interest from biotechnology start-ups of late. For example, United States-based start-up Jellatech said late last year that it could produce animal-free and slaughter-free collagen and gelatin by growing cells in a bioreactor for the cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries.

Chan said Avant had entered into material transfer agreements with a number of leading ingredient companies. “We have shipped out samples to several major multinational groups. We are actively developing partnerships with both ingredient companies and skincare brands,” she said, without identifying potential partners. The company is targeting the US, South Korea, Japan and Southeast Asian markets.

As far as its cell-based seafood products were concerned, Chan said the company was in the process of scaling up and lowering production costs before commercialisation. “It will take some time, like one or two years,” she said. Avant is also in discussions with the Singapore Food Agency about applying for regulatory approvals for its cell-based seafood.

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