Alex Lorstani paths to co-found Gelzen with Nick Ouzounov and is taking applying his molecular biology degree to engineer animal-free gelatin.
We caught up with Lorestani to learn why they chose to make gelatin, how they create it and how soon it might hit the market.
EM: Wow, so how does gelatin relate to this?
AL: Well, the more I studied antibiotic resistance, the more I learned about the contributing factors, all of which start with our food system and the overuse of antibiotics.
The vast majority of gelatin on the market today is derived from animals housed on factory farms where this abuse of antibiotics takes place.
Another reason is that Nick is a vegetarian, so he’s always grappled with lackluster gelatin substitutes or simply searching for food that doesn’t contain it at all.
EM: Where are you at in the process of rebuilding gelatin’s biology?
AL: This past summer, we were accepted to an accelerator in San Francisco.
We came in with our concept and needs, which at that time was lab space to test our hypothesis that you could generate non-animal derived gelatin.
EM: What is the business plan? Is Gelzen going to be sitting on shelves next to other gelatin products?
AL: Not exactly.
We are producing a bio-identical product that can be plugged in where animal-derived gelatin is used.
EM: How will you combat that notion?
AL: We would not be going down this road if we didn’t have the intention of making this cost competitive with animal-derived gelatin.
We have no intention of being a boutique gelatin producer, but rather we plan to make a product that can replace a commodity good.
We don’t believe the largest problem is the price of gelatin substitutes and more the quality because they’re missing the mechanical and chemical properties of gelatin.
Gelatin substitutes are $30 a kilo instead of the $7 gelatin costs and the quality is low.
EM: Are there already businesses interested in your product?
AL: Yes! If you think about excited about gelatin, you should talk to the people who want to buy it from us.
One thing that’s very powerful in our approach is that we are programming cells to build gelatin for us so that we can process them with any properties companies are interested it.