A Small but Mighty New Biotech Player Wants to Raise the Bar Using Exosomes

SickScience cocreator Tyler Heiden Jones was in Paris attending the 2022 IMCAS medical research conference when he heard molecular scientists Polen Koçak and Merve Yildirim discussing the potential of exosomes — more specifically, exosome isolation — in regenerative medicine.

“I nearly fell out of my chair during the presentation,” recalled Heiden Jones, who formerly led marketing at La Mer for several years before becoming general manager at Kosé and, most recently, heading up retail sales and marketing at Nécessaire.

“As a marketer, you’re always looking for that ‘next big thing.’ Normally it’s a slow evolution of improvement; the ‘next’ thing will be marginally better than what came before it, but when I saw this I thought, ‘oh my god — this is a big deal.’”

Exosomes are microscopic vesicles that facilitate intercellular communication and transport molecules like RNAs, proteins and lipids. While research into how the particles can benefit cancer treatment, obesity and diabetes management is well underway, exosomes are relatively new to the average beauty consumer’s lexicon — though avid proponents like Dr. Barbara Sturm and Dr. Will Cole have given them a recent boost in visibility.

Importantly, exosomes are notoriously challenging to isolate — a crucial step in wielding their benefits. To overcome this, college-classmates-turned-cofounders Koçak and Yildirim embarked on a 10-year-long research journey that led to the creation of their proprietary exosome-isolating NX35 technology.

And though the Istanbul-based pair were not presenting their findings in Paris with the intent of launching a beauty brand, a meeting with Heiden Jones to discuss the viability of leveraging the technology to improve skin, hair and body care treatments quickly led to the genesis of SickScience.

Launching direct-to-consumer Monday, the beauty brand’s debut stock keeping unit is the ShapeShift V-Line Jaw Defining Serum, which retails for $58 and taps pineapple-derived exosomes to combat “tech neck” and create a more sculpted-looking neck and jawline.

“Traditionally, slimming products will aim to increase firmness and elasticity, or increase blood pressure using caffeine — we’re not doing that. Our exosomes carry the message to fat reserves to naturally metabolize lipids in the body,” said Yildirim.

A key aim of the clinically tested, vegan serum is to offer a more accessible alternative to aesthetic or medical treatments that reduce jaw fat.

“We know [the jaw] is a very difficult area to work with, and we thought this is a great way to sort of plant our flag and say, ‘this is what we stand for’ — problem-solution products for concerns that we don’t feel are being addressed in the cosmetic industry — only through medical procedures,” said Heiden Jones.

The brand’s second launch coming in April will be a hair offering that harnesses garlic-derived exosomes aiming to stimulate growth.

“We like the idea of what we call a ‘popcorn strategy’ — problem solving and jumping through various categories like face, scalp, body,” he said. “NX35 isn’t a magic ingredient; it’s a technology that is applied differently for each product in order to get a desired result.”

Though the brand did not specify sales estimates for the launch, industry sources estimate SickScience could do around $2 million in sales during its first year on the market.

As far as marketing goes, Koçak and Yildirim themselves will take to the brand’s social media platforms to educate consumers about the biotech behind the formulas.

SickScience cofounders, Koçak and Yildirim.

SickScience cofounders, Koçak and Yildirim.


“We know full well this will be a long battle of building awareness,” said Heiden Jones, adding to that end that the brand is betting big on third-party clinical trial results and consumer testimonials to drive growth and build a loyal consumer base.

The brand’s lab-to-market process takes roughly nine to 12 months per new innovation, he said, and while the company’s near-term focus is getting SickScience off the ground, there is potential down the road “that we’ll have learned enough to reduce [manufacturing] costs that we could create a viable raw material business, separate from SickScience.”

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