Does Sustainability Have A Scent? Advances In Bioengineering Create Environmentally Responsible Musk

Bio-based musk disrupts conventional chemical musk compounds and creates the potential for fully … [+] new scents.

Yasu & Junko

Musk is current in virtually each scent we dab, spritz, and splash onto our skins. A extremely versatile substance, musk has a definite scent that turns heads not like another perfume. Musk might be most well-known for its use in perfumes. But it’s additionally used as a base observe in every little thing from scented soaps to hair merchandise, detergents, and furnishings polish. Natural musk can also be a really costly ingredient, often produced by environmentally dangerous means. But approaching musk with artificial biology may rework the supply, security, and value of this luxury substance. 

Musk doesn’t have a single aroma. Rather, it’s a household of compounds identified for his or her earthy and woody but refined and candy odor. Musk perfumes are identified to have a grounding impact that calms the thoughts and relaxes the physique. For the primary time, Conagen, a biosynthesis and biomanufacturing firm, has succeeded in producing clear and sustainable plant-based musk. The firm has been in a position to produce each acquainted scents and fully new musk compounds. 
Problematic practices in musk manufacturing and rising shopper curiosity in sustainability have pushed the necessity for biology-based disruption. “The twenty first century has already heralded the top of the age of chemistry and the start of the age of biology,” says Kathy Oglesby, head of Sensegen, taste and perfume division of Blue California, Conagen’s innovation associate in growing a sustainable bio-musk. Historically, musk manufacturing exploited animal populations and has been poisonous to human well being. In Blue California’s fingers, Conagen’s bio-musk will pave a brand new method ahead.

Changing the Status Quo of Musk 

Until now, luxurious fragrances like musk have been troublesome to make. Biology provides new, extra … [+] reasonably priced options.

senia effe/EyeEm –

Natural musk is a byproduct of animal and plant secretion. Before turning into an endangered species, 140 musk deers had been killed to provide a single kilo of this fragrance ingredient. The perfume trade has shifted from this unethical and unsustainable observe. But it now depends on artificial chemical engineering processes for musk manufacturing. Nearly all musk at the moment is created from artificial petrochemicals compounds, which carry a really massive carbon footprint. 

There are three main lessons of artificial musks: nitro musks, polycyclic musk compounds and macrocyclic musk compounds. While the primary two teams have been utilized in every little thing from cosmetics to detergents, they’ve additionally sparked public debate and environmental considerations. 
Both artificial nitro musks and polycyclic musk compounds are dangerous to folks and the planet. These compounds bioaccumulate within the setting, in tissues, and dwelling organisms. Studies point out that these compounds can disrupt the correct functioning of cells and hormonal programs, and so they have been detected in breast milk, physique fats, blood, and umbilical cords. 
Macrocyclic musk compounds had been anticipated to switch the opposite harmful artificial musks. But difficulties of their synthesis and the ensuing increased costs have lengthy restricted their availability. Advances in artificial biology may provide an answer to those limitations.
The Motivations Driving Sustainable Bio-Musk

From Left to Right – Noemi Montoya, Angélique Burke and Sara Marino of Blue California.

Blue California

In nature, the macrocyclic musk compounds extracted from crops are lactones whereas these from animals are ketones. Both macrocyclic lactones and macrocyclic ketones are natural compounds with an analogous odor. But the previous is less complicated to synthesize. This is the important thing ingredient in Conagen’s new sustainable bio-musk.
By utilizing microbial fermentation, Conagen developed musk macrocyclic lactones from plant-based substrates, which reacted with enzymes. With its distinctive bioconversion know-how and bio-manufacturing capabilities, the corporate has effectively scaled its merchandise and initiatives from labs to world-scale amenities. Its bio-musk is anticipated to observe the identical trajectory of economic scale-up.
Once Conagen identifies how crops and animals make desired molecules, its engineers can develop new strains or bioconversion processes by its molecular platforms. Conagen has a number of platforms for growing small molecules. The firm was in a position to biosynthesize the musk perfume compounds by leveraging its lactone manufacturing know-how with its lipid platform. 
Conagen’s portfolio additionally comprises fully novel musk perfume compounds. “For these musk scents we’re making model new molecules that weren’t commercially accessible or chemically accessible earlier than,” says Casey Lippmeier, vice chairman of innovation at Conagen. 
Innovation Through Collaboration

From left to proper – Kathy Oglesby, Sara Marino, Angélique Burke and Noemi Montoya.

Blue California

The development in bio-musk is basically as a result of innovation ecosystem that Conagen and Blue California have created by their partnership. Conagen leverages its molecular platforms and know-how whereas Blue California identifies and explores the market alternatives and shopper calls for. At Blue California, skilled perfumers put their sense of odor to work on the musk perfume compounds, offering suggestions and suggesting areas for enchancment. 
Although perfumers are typically not concerned in growing artificial biology merchandise, the important function they performed on this latest accomplishment should not be neglected. Their contributions had been instrumental within the seamless transition of musk perfume compounds from manufacturing stations to fragrance bottles and again once more. As affiliate companions, Conagen and Blue California tune the standard, purity, and value to fulfill the wants of their prospects. By constantly smelling, evaluating, and evaluating numerous molecules and perfume intensities, Conagen and Blue California distilled a subjective fragrant expertise all the way down to a science. 
With collaboration as a driving drive for innovation, the businesses had been in a position to go from thought to proof-of-concept in a mere 5 months. This speedy tempo even stunned many individuals concerned within the improvement, together with Oglesby who was not anticipating this speedy breakthrough till her retirement. According to Oglesby, what the businesses have achieved aligns with their shared imaginative and prescient. “[We want] to information the know-how within the course of fixing the trade which in flip improves and altering issues for the folks and the planet,” says Oglesby.
But it may nonetheless take a while earlier than plant musk seems on retailer cabinets. “The regulatory paths round these beauty substances aren’t as rigorous as for meals, for example,” says Lippmeier. “Depending on which musk we’re speaking about, it could possibly be as quickly as six months, perhaps so long as a 12 months.” The course of of economic scale-up means addressing regulatory considerations, improvement agreements, and mental property points. There are additionally particular technical challenges for every musk’s formulation and utility. Conagen’s macrocyclic lactones for novel musk fragrances are anticipated to take longer to achieve the markets than their acquainted scents.
Fragrances on the Horizon

Using fermentation, artificial biology firm, Conagen, has created fully new musk fragrances.


Plant musk creates new alternatives for the perfume trade to keep away from inhumane practices and environmental hurt. Conagen and Blue California’s accomplishment sums up the promise of artificial biology for acutely aware progress in a comforting perfume. 
How the market embraces plant musk and the way creativity fuels biotechnology will doubtless drive the subsequent wave of taste and perfume options. Both Conagen and Blue California are already eyeing their subsequent alternative. For Oglesby, selecting the subsequent goal is the toughest factor to do, however prompt the amber perfume, well-known for its heat, powdery, and candy scent, could possibly be subsequent on the record. 
This story was made potential by Conagen. For extra info on sustainable bio-musk go to Blue California Sensegen’s new pure sustainable plant musk for fragrance and cosmetics. | Blue California (
Thanks to Ammielle WB for added reporting on this story. I’m the founding father of SynBioBeta, and a number of the corporations that I write about together with Inscripta are sponsors of the SynBioBeta convention and weekly digest. Some of the folks and corporations I write about are sponsors of SynBioBeta together with Conagen.
Looking to study extra about the way forward for healthcare? Be positive to hitch SynBioBeta’s upcoming Biopharma Event! Conagen’s Casey Lippmeier may even be talking on the occasion.

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About the Author: Jessica