Symbiome Raises $15M for ‘Ancestral Microbiome’ Skin Range

Allison Collins
·4 mins read

Symbiome, a soon-to-be-launched skin-care brand, has raised $15 million.

The round was led by True Ventures, which has backed Peloton and Sweetgreen, with Bold Capital Partners, Mission Bay Capital and Gisev Family Office and other angel investors.

Symbiome is slated to launch Oct. 7 with seven products that aim to shift the skin’s microbiome back to its “ancestral” state, according to Larry Weiss, founder and chief scientific officer. Weiss also helped develop products for Mother Dirt, an early probiotic skin-care range.

According to Weiss, the skin’s microbiome has shifted significantly since people went from hunter-gatherer mode to modern-day living. Symbiome’s products aim to get the skin’s microbiome back to where it was back in the day, using 10 ingredients per product, or fewer.

The goal, according to Weiss and Symbiome’s chief executive officer Vicki Levine, is skin health.

“What we’re doing is creating a blueprint that identifies what we’ve lost, and through creating unique and innovative ingredients and using processes that keep all of these ingredients intact, we’re delivering the benefits…of the microbes that we once had on our body and our skin,” Levine said.

The Symbiome team includes “a full staff of microbiologists” who study the microbiome, Levine added.

“What we can do is figure out what [the former skin-residing microbes] were making, grow them up, get them to make these things, and apply the benefits of re-engraftment without actually trying to get re-engraftment to occur,” Weiss said. The idea is that by knowing what would produce vitamin A, for example, that vitamin A is not needed as an additional ingredient in the formulation, the Symbiome team said.

Weiss acknowledges that the question of ancestral life expectancy — which was not high — often comes up when talking about the appeal of getting the microbiome back to where it was thousands of years ago. He said ancient humans “modal age of death is about the same as ours, except we need 16,000 pharmaceuticals to get there.”

The appeal in the “ancestral microbiome” is in the lack of inflammatory issues that hunter-gatherers seemed to face, Weiss said. “They don’t have acne or eczema or rosacea, psoriasis. They don’t have coronary artery calcification or diabetes,” he said.

On Oct. 7, the brand will launch a line that includes a cleanser, The Renewal, moisturizer, The One and several face oils. Symbiome has another slate of product launches planned for Nov. 3, including holiday offerings.

Ingredients, which the brand says are sustainably sourced from the Amazon, are fermented in a process meant to “unlock…nutrient[s] all within one ingredient,” Levine said.

“We’re sourcing a lot of this, most of it, from Brazil. It’s this idea that when you work with the communities…it teaches them to sustainably farm as well — Brazil actually has very strict guidelines around fair trade,” Levine said. Symbiome’s ingredients come from pruning existing plants by less than 20 percent and from plantation farming, the team said. “It’s a hybrid of wild crafting…[and] these plantations, so we have a hedge,” Weiss noted.

The business will sell products direct-to-consumer via its website. Industry sources projected the brand could reach $100 million in sales by 2025.

For Adam D’Augelli, partner at True Ventures, the investment made sense because of Symbiome’s focus on clean ingredients, it’s health orientation and it’s data-driven business model, he said in a statement.

“Our team identifies and targets bigger market trends that we know will reach a critical mass within the next three to 10 years,” D’Augelli said. “Larry is a science and health pioneer in the consumer goods space, coupled with Vicki’s d-t-c, data and business expertise, the Symbiome team’s core strengths are the exact convergence of larger market forces we were looking for in a start-up.”

According to Weiss, the funding will help Symbiome continue its work in science and build out products and community.

“We’re capitalized to build on science, to build on great products and to build on community and do all of this in a way that is deeply respectful of a long-term outcome,” Weiss said. “And the long-term outcomes is healthier, better communities.”

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