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L’Oréal to partner with start-up uBiome

Venture sets out to explore the bugs on our skin

by Marc S. Reisch
March 14, 2019 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 97, Issue 11


An atlas showing microbial skin inhabitants by the most common types.
Credit: Darryl Leja/National Human Genome Research Institute
The skin hosts a wide variety of microbes.

L’Oréal is joining other personal care industry players in linking with a start-up to navigate the emerging business of cosmetics that help the skin microbiome.

The Paris-based cosmetics maker says its technology incubator will partner with San Francisco–based uBiome to research the skin’s microbial ecosystem. The two say they expect their combined effort will offer new insights into the communities of bacteria, fungi, and viruses on the skin and aid L’Oréal in new product development.

For L’Oréal, the partnership serves a need to “better understand the interplay between bacterial diversity and skin health,” says Guive Balooch, vice president of the firm’s incubator. Microbial balance, he points out, affects skin health and appearance. An imbalance can contribute to acne, eczema, rosacea, and psoriasis.

Seven-year-old uBiome boasts a microbiome database that it says is the largest in the world with over 250,000 samples. To date, the company has raised $110 million from investors. L’Oréal’s expertise “combined with uBiome’s advanced understanding of the skin microbiome will allow us to pave the way for the future of personalized skin care,” uBiome CEO Jessica Richman says.

Competitors also have an eye on what research firm Zion forecasts will be a $1.4 billion-per-year market for microbiome-related products by 2024, including food supplements, disease treatment, and diagnostics.

Among cosmetic ingredient makers, Symrise recently formed a probiotic research partnership with start-up Probi, and DSM invested in S-Biomedic, a developer of microbiome-inspired cosmetic and therapeutic treatments. The consumer-product maker Unilever invested in microbiome skin care start-up Gallinée a year ago.


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