Polaris and MIT’s Langer Meet L’Oreal. Don’t Believe It? There’s “Living Proof”
Move over Mary Kay. Some of the best and brightest brains from MIT and other research powerhouses are applying their scientific prowess to the multibillion-dollar cosmetics industry—and they’ve recruited a veteran of beauty-products giant L’Oreal to pull it off.
It’s all happening in the heart of Kendall Square, on Rogers Street (home also to Xconomy’s Cambridge, MA, headquarters), at a secretive company called Living Proof, where MIT graduates are injecting advances in chemistry and materials science into cosmetic products for hair and skin. And though Living Proof sounds a bit different from the scores of other nascent startups incubating in its neighborhood, some of the area’s usual suspects, such as Polaris Venture Partners and famous MIT professor (and Xconomist) Robert Langer, are behind the operation.
Living Proof has been brewing for a few years, previously as Andora. (In fact, the firm just closed a $7 million Series A-3 financing with Polaris and other investors, according to a report in PE Hub.) Yet many of the details of the firm have only recently been revealed on its new website, in which CEO Rob Robillard, who cut his teeth in the cosmetics industry with L’Oreal, provides a first-person take on the company, the employees, and the star-studded board of directors.
In addition to Langer, the board features former chief counsel of the FDA Peter Barton Hutt, one of the most influential food and drug attorneys in the country. The other directors include Polaris partner Amir Nashat, who came to the VC firm from Langer’s lab at MIT, and Polaris co-founder Jon Flint.
Despite Living Proof’s new Web presence, neither Nashat nor Robillard would comment on the company or the science involved in its hair and skin products. (When Nashat told me the firm is still in stealth mode I was reminded ever so slightly of John Travolta as Tony Manero: “Don’t touch the hair.”)
I did manage, though, to track down a patent application filed by the company that may shed light on the science brewing there. According to the application, conventional styling products rely on polymers “to give hair shine, to style hair, to give hair a desired texture or feel, and to repair damaged hair”—but the products aren’t as effective or long-lasting as they could be because the bulky polymer molecules are tricky to dissolve in shampoos, gels, and lotions. The application indicates that Living Proof intends … Next Page »