The synthetic biology firm Debut Biotechnology has raised $34 million in series B funding to develop active ingredients for the beauty market. The funding round was led by the venture capital arm of the cosmetics giant L’Oréal. The Japanese firm DIC, which signed a joint development agreement with Debut earlier this year, also participated.
Debut spun out of the labs of chemist Gregory Weiss at the University of California, Irvine, in 2019 and raised $23 million in series A funding in 2021. Co-founder and CEO Joshua Britton says “the goal of the company is to turn the active ingredients space in beauty on its head” by combining biofermentation and cell-free enzymatic cascades to produce, at scale, molecules that nature makes in only minute quantities. The firm is working with DIC on bioactive polyphenols, he says, and has a “rich, diverse, and complex pipeline” with L’Oréal.
“Beauty is probably one of the only industries right now where synthetic biology is absolutely required,” Britton says. Though Debut may eventually branch into markets like health and wellness, he says beauty is where demand exists today for high-performance, biobased, and biodegradable ingredients that can’t easily be created with conventional synthesis, extraction, or fermentation.
In addition to the ingredients it will sell to customers such as DIC and L’Oréal, Debut is creating its own finished goods, Britton says. The firm expects to have its first internally-developed consumer products on store shelves by the end of this year.
Debut will use the new funds mostly to add about 20 people to its current staff of 60, Britton says. Hires will be split between R&D, manufacturing, and consumer-facing roles.