The Peoria-bred company iSoy Technologies has discovered an innovative new ingredient for anti-aging cosmetics.
In December 2004, iSoy Technologies, a company founded by Raymond Willis, discovered a way to create a “green” sunscreen which could be targeted at environmentally-conscious outdoor enthusiasts. While working on an unrelated project at the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research (NCAUR) lab in Peoria, the Biotechnology Research and Development Corporation (BRDC)—a Peoria-based, for-profit consortium of chemical companies that identifies, funds and licenses promising new technologies for commercial development—brought new technology to Willis’ attention which could introduce a new wave of sun protection.
The original result, SoyScreen, became much more than a competitor of petroleum-based sunscreens, according to the Agricultural Research Services (ARS). “Instead, SoyScreen—and the patented ARS method of producing it—became the technological platform from which iSoy Technologies Corporation of Cary, Ill., began launching a novel class of cosmetic ingredients called skincare bio-lipid actives.” At this point, Willis said, the prohibitive regulatory costs of producing SoyScreen pushed the company in a different direction, as its focus shifted from sunscreen to developing ingredients for anti-aging cosmetic products.
In April 2005, the company began its initial operations by creating, producing and marketing these cosmetic products. Willis said that “SoyScreen, renamed FSG—Feruloyl Soja Glycerides, was marketed as an anti-aging ingredient with multiple values for the skin and hair.”
“UVA absorption prevents sun damage to the skin’s collagen and elastin proteins,” noted Willis. “FSG absorbs UVA and prevents premature aging of the skin. This property, along with FSG’s ability to prevent moisture loss, adds luminescence and neutralizes damaging free-radical-containing molecules to provide true ‘wrinkle prevention and anti-aging’ characteristics to our cosmetics customers.’”
By the end of 2006, iSoy Technologies had produced enough FSG products to commence with market sampling and limited sales. The company’s first 10 commercial FSG products included bar soaps, bar cleansers, liquid soap, spray soap and hair/tint protecting shampoo and conditioner. iSoy Technologies also developed, produced and sold several other unique cosmetic products with special nutritional and pharmaceutical values.
“In 2007, the company decided to improve the production process to improve the cost economics,” said Willis. “At the same time, the company decided that it should develop some formulation using FSG in order to demonstrate its value to cosmetics companies and others.”
Initial sales of FSG products began in late 2006, and the company spent 2007 developing new business contacts and nurturing current ones. All of this was made possible in part by Willis’ long career in business, and his experience with entrepreneurial and start-up companies has unquestionably aided iSoy Technologies’ growth.
A Community Effort
“The company’s speed in extending process, product and sales development has been limited by reliance on small, but essential, angel investment funding,” Willis said. “The company is in discussions with a number of potential partners and continues to look for additional funding for its operations in Peoria.”
Obtaining funding, however, is just one part of starting a business. Willis credits several Peoria-based organizations with helping iSoy Technologies attain its initial successes. “Without the active support of NCAUR and its leadership,” Willis noted, “none of the work that we have done would have been possible.”
Peoria NEXT, which facilitates the discovery, innovation and commercialization of new technologies for economic development through collaboration and creativity, as well as the Bradley Technology Commercialization Center, under the direction of Nancy Wright, were instrumental in finding funds and support for iSoy Technologies. Willis is also thankful for the help of the BRDC, “the original supporter of the work of the USDA scientists who discovered the core process for producing FSG.” The BRDC continues to financially support the scientists at NCAUR who work with iSoy Technologies in a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement.
The Pros of Bio-Lipids
FSG is not merely just another sunscreen or soap ingredient, but the introduction of a new type of cosmetics and skin enhancers and protectors. As a sunscreen, FSG stands well above the typical lotion or spray currently used by the average American. According to Willis, “FSG is in a lipid or oil form and allows the sun screening ability to be carried into the skin, where it cannot be washed off and where it can stay for a longer period of time.” To date, there have been no signs that FSG is unsafe or causes irritation of the skin.
FSG makes such a good sunscreen because it works differently than other similar products. FSG is a new bio-lipid—a molecule from natural sources produced through a natural enzymatic process. Willis noted that this process “creates an improved molecule that allows the sunscreen and anti-aging benefits of ferulic acid to be absorbed into the skin, where it can stay and do its work longer than the other chemical- or mineral-based sunscreens.” Because of this, not only is FSG able to filter out UVB rays like most sunscreens, it can also filter out UVA rays—the more dangerous, cancer-causing rays.
Because the FSG enzyme is not easily absorbed by the skin, it is bonded to soy oil—the vehicle by which it is absorbed better than lotions, many of which crystallize on the skin and can be easily washed off. Willis credits the lipid formula with helping the skin to absorb “good, but poorly soluble, ingredients to be dissolved and carried into the skin.”
Biocatalysis is the patented process used to make FSG that was discovered by ARS chemists. “It is merely the use of enzymes that nature uses to convert one thing into another.” Willis suggests an easier way to think of it, as “a chemical process that has developed over time to make and sustain life.” The specific enzyme used to create FSG is a thermophile—an organism that lives in high-temperature deep-sea vents in Antarctica.
iSoy Technologies has discovered other uses for FSG, in addition to cosmetic products and sunscreen, such as in pesticides—one particular avenue Willis hopes to explore in the future. He noted that field testing has shown benefits when FSG is used in certain pesticides to prevent the chemical from breaking down prematurely, allowing less pesticide to be used. Some testing has proven effective on nut-bearing trees, but due to the high costs, iSoy cannot make it commercially available at this time.
“The goal of iSoy Technologies,” Willis stated, “is to be a player in the field of cosmetics, actives and finished products.” He plans to create more finished products for consumers by drawing out more ingredients through the biocatalysis process. “We also plan to acquire additional processes, products and companies that fall in the natural category and that target the broadest area of cosmetic and related products.” Willis said that if iSoy Technologies is able to discover nutritional value for its lipids, the company’s development into nutritional or nutraceutical ingredients and products would likely be done through a spin-off company.
iSoy Technologies is yet another example of the many innovative companies that have been nurtured in the Peoria area. From the discovery of a chemical process, a new type of anti-aging ingredient was created, and in a society preoccupied with looking and feeling younger, this is indeed a lucrative innovation. IBI