Enzymes Company Curie Co Relocates to North Carolina from New York
Curie Co, an early stage enzymes company based in New York City, has relocated to Research Triangle Park and hired an industry veteran with North Carolina ties as its chief technology officer.
“The move places the company closer to prospective top-tier talent and allows it to benefit from the state’s friendly business climate as well as RTP’s biotechnology and biomanufacturing resources,” Curie Co said in a news release announcing the relocation.
“RTP is a hub of bright and ambitious talent and well-established industrial biotechnology infrastructure and resources,” said Erika Milczek, Ph.D., chief executive officer and founder of Curie Co. “This move allows us to grow and scale as a company alongside this amazing community.”
The company’s new chief technology officer is Alan Berry, Ph.D., who spent the last 17 years in metabolic engineering and microbial development roles at Novozymes North America, a Danish enzymes company with North American headquarters in Franklinton, N.C., and operations in RTP.
Berry will lead the development of Curie Co’s technology to meet demands across “many industrial applications and markets,” according to the company. He is an applied microbiologist with over 30 years of experience in the industrial biotechnology and biopharmaceutical industries.
“I joined Curie Co because the technology our company has developed meets a genuine, unmet need across multiple industries while being both technologically and commercially realistic,” Berry said. “The cutting-edge technology and the outstanding industrial experience and track record of the management team, in combination with the bright, energetic scientists who deliver our results in the lab every day, sets our enzyme products up for resounding success. I’m excited to be a part of the journey.”
Berry is a contributing author on 40 journal articles and book chapters and is a co-inventor on several issued patents representing eight patent families.
Seeking better preservatives
Curie Co develops naturally occurring enzymes as more efficient and environmentally better replacements for chemical preservatives in personal care products such as soaps, shampoos, skin care creams and beauty products.
Such products typically contain petrochemical-based preservatives. Consumer trends, sustainability issues and regulatory changes have motivated formulators of these products to look at biologically based alternatives, according to the company.
“Our process yields cost-effective bio-based preservatives that are orders of magnitude better than chemicals and have a net positive impact on the planet,” Curie Co’s website says. “Because of the inherent catalytic nature of enzymes, we can do more with less.”
For example, one ton of Curie Co’s biodegradable enzymes can replace 100 tons of phenoxyethanol, the leading preservative in personal care products, the website says. “Our solution will radically reduce the amount of chemicals entering our environment, bodies and waterways.”
The company declined to disclose specific products Curie Co is developing or partnerships it has formed but said the company’s customers range from multinational corporations to challenger brands in the personal care industry.
“We’re working with household names and leading manufacturers of products from hand soap and body wash to shampoo and conditioner to sunscreen and beauty products,” the company said in a statement.
Looking to grow
Curie Co relocated from Johnson & Johnson Innovation’s JLabs facility in New York. JLabs are regional incubators that support early stage healthcare technology companies with lab space, expertise, industry connections, entrepreneurial programs and other services.
Curie Co now leases lab space from Alexandria Real Estate Equities at 6 Davis Drive in RTP.
The company has 21 employees and is looking to add more.
“We’re specifically looking for ambitious scientists who are eager to work with an interdisciplinary team of chemists, biologists and engineers,” the company said. “We’re looking for people who want to advance science to solve big, civilization-scale problems.”
People matching that description should submit their resume to firstname.lastname@example.org regardless of position openings, the company said.
Idea born in a hair salon
Milczek, formerly a senior research chemist at Merck & Co., founded Curie Co in 2017. She named the company after the 19th century physicist and chemist Marie Curie and an inspirational quote attributed to the Nobel Prize winner: "Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood."
The idea for the company came to Milczek in a hair salon when hot air from a blow dryer vaporized a treatment her stylist was applying. She instantly recognized the smell as formaldehyde, a carcinogenic chemical.
Milczek realized there was a market opportunity for replacing dangerous preservatives in consumer products with safer biologically based alternatives.
“I am a chemist. I can come up with better solutions,” she thought, recounting the moment in a 2020 interview with Chemical and Engineering News.