During his doctoral research at Campinas State University (Unicamp), in which he characterized the main pathogenic microorganisms in cocoa (Theobroma cacao L) in Brazil, the chemist Fabio Neves dos Santos observed during visits to farms in the region of Ilhéus, Bahia, that during the extraction of the almond, used as a raw material for chocolate, a liquid is obtained by manually pressing the pulp of the fruit, most of which is discarded as waste agricultural.
“A very small fraction of this liquid, which has a very sweet taste and is therefore called cocoa honey, is consumed as a beverage in regions such as southern Bahia, the largest fruit producer in the country. But much of it is not being used, ”Santos said.
Analyzing the liquid, coming from cocoa, not very viscous, with a large amount of sugars and reducing agents, such as fructose and sucrose, the researcher evaluated that the product has antioxidant activity due to bioactive organic compounds, as well as dietary fibers, high levels of vitamin C and essential minerals such as potassium, sodium, calcium, iron, manganese and zinc. Therefore, it would have the potential to be used as an ingredient in food and cosmetics.
Based on this discovery, Santos founded the startup Cacaus Biocosmetics with the aim of developing a new generation of cosmetics with antioxidant, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties associated with cocoa honey.
through a project supported fur Innovative Small Business Research Program (TUBE), the startup has already developed a face cream and a moisturizing body lotion based on input.
“The test results in vitro, made in a cellular model, indicated that both cocoa honey and cosmetics containing this raw material did not cause skin irritation. In addition, they promoted cell regeneration, ”says Santos al Research for innovation.
The researcher now intends to gather more resources to initiate clinical trials of the products to demonstrate the antioxidant and regenerative properties of the ingredient on the skin and thereby obtain approval from the National Health Supervisory Agency (Anvisa) for the use of the claims that products based on it, for example, slow down skin aging.
Before that, however, the startup must already start the production and marketing of grade 1 cocoa-based products, as classified by Anvisa cosmetics with basic properties that do not need to be tested initially and do not require detailed information on the product, methods and limitations of use, such as perfumes, lotions and creams without photoprotective action.
“We have already proven that the products are safe and therefore can be marketed as Grade 1. We have also filed a patent application for the formulations and, in order to launch them on the market and start sales more quickly, we will outsource production and commercialize them through e-commerce”Says Santos.
Training in the UK
The entrepreneur was one of five selected for the 2022 edition of the Leaders in Innovation Fellowships program (LIF), and won the Simulation Game at the LIF In Country Event in Brazil.
The Simulation Game is a business operations simulation competition through software, called SimVenture Evolution, which mimics all parameters of the development of a technology in the real world, such as research and development (R&D), production, sales, marketing and financing, including the others.
Offered by the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAE), with support from the Newton Fund, LIF aims to empower emerging leaders who are developing engineering-based innovations with the potential to contribute to the economic and social development of their respective countries.
The initiative is aimed at researchers from RAE partner countries who are developing a commercialization plan for their innovation.
Selected entrepreneurs participate in an immersive training period in the UK, where they have access to experienced mentors and opportunities for net International.
In the short term, they develop, with the support of the program, a commercialization plan for their innovation. In the long run, they have access to an international network of innovators and mentors to carry out their business plan.
“Participating in the LIF will be very important and providential in the current phase of our project, to bring the product to market. Through the program, I gain access to a network of mentors who have allowed us to advance in the marketing plan, ”says Santos.
A group of 70 researchers from ten countries was selected for this year’s edition of the program. In Brazil, FAPESP is responsible for selecting the participants.
“The main selection criterion for participation in the program is the quality of the applications. Country vacancies are not covered by the quota system. Of all the applications from each participating country, we selected five, ”explains Gaelle Elisha, head of the Entrepreneurship Development Program at the Royal Academy of Engineering.
The other four Brazilian representatives selected for the current edition of the program were Marina Trevelin Souzawhich is developing a new bioactive glass capable of accelerating cell proliferation, causing faster healing of damaged tissues; Thomaz Augusto Guisard Restivowhich uses metallic diamonds and derivative products to create building materials with better performance, reasonable cost and lower environmental impact; Gustavo de Suza, which is producing innovative biodegradable packaging that eliminates the need for multilayer plastics without compromising the shelf life of food; And Marzieh Kadiravwhich is creating high-performance materials made from natural bamboo, using a zero-waste process to address construction-related environmental problems.