21 May 2024

Biotechnology startup raising a million investment to remove microplastics

image Photo: Co-founder and CEO, Cellugy, Isabel Alvarez Martos. Foto: Jacob Nielsen.

The Danish biotechnology startup Cellugy raises DKK 36 million from a syndicate of strong investors, among them, the Export and Investment Fund of Denmark (EIFO). The investment is to scale up the development and commercialisation of their biodegradable alternative to plastics and petrochemicals for the benefit of both the environment and people.

Microplastics are found in a number of products within the personal care industry and the cosmetic industry, e.g., toothpaste, soaps and make-up. This is detrimental to the environment as the small, invisible pieces of plastics cannot be degraded in nature as well as being harmful to the skin.

Therefore, two scientists decided to find a solution to this problem by developing a sustainable alternative to microplastics and other petrochemical ingredients. It all started with research at Aarhus University and in 2018, Spanish Isabel Al Martos and Indonesian Deby Fapyane established the company Cellugy.

Biodegradable cellulose created through fermentation

The product is called “EcoFLEXY”, a biodegradable cellulose which can replace the petrochemical ingredients used in, among others, packaging, paper, cosmetics, food, textiles and even biomedicine.

So far, it has been difficult to replace petrochemical ingredients such as microplastics and paraffin due the  lack of alternatives offering the same kind of consistency and spreadability. But Cellugy’s product differs from other cellulose products as they are created through a fermentation process which ensures that the cream is as easy to apply.

”Our product can directly replace many of the harmful ingredients that are in use today. The biggest sustainable challenge in the cosmetic industry is the dependency on petrochemical ingredients, however, with our technology, we can establish a future entirely free from polluting ingredients”, says Isabel Martos, CEO and co-founder of Cellugy.

Extensive demand from the industry

The biodegradable cellulose is made of sugar and can easily replace the harmful ingredients that are currently used by the cosmetic industry. There is an extensive demand for sustainable, high quality  alternatives, and it has been a challenge finding solutions which can match quality, price and scalability. Until now.

EIFO has invested in Cellugy earlier and is also taking part in this investment round together with a strong syndicate of both Danish and international investors consisting of ICIG, Unconventional Ventures, Joyance Partners, PreSeed Ventures and The Footprint Firm. With this investment, the Danish startup can soon look forward to measuring its annual production in tonnes rather than in kilos.

”Cellugy has created a unique product that solves a global problem. We are glad to provide backing to a Danish company facing a substantial international demand from especially the cosmetic industry. But the possibilities go further than that as the scalability is wide ranging. Cellugy’s solution can potentially replace harmful products related to everything from textiles, food to construction and paint,” says Sara Sande, partner, Green Transition, EIFO.

Diversity fosters innovation

EIFO works strategically with diversity in investments, and Cellugy is a good example of a company who clearly fosters innovation as a direct consequence of diversity. Eleven employees representing nine different nationalities with an equal representation of gender spread across different age groups, all with various commercial and innovative competencies.

”It has been proven that companies experience greater economic growth when the founding team is diversified, both in terms of gender and backgrounds. It is easier for the company to attract talents which is a shortage in many high tech companies. It is a great advantage to be able to bring various competencies into play when you establish a company from scratch,” says Sara Sande.