Why Is the CIA Investing in This Skin Care Company?

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Why Is the CIA Investing in This Skin Care Company? featured image

The world is buzzing about a very unconventional beauty partnering, as the CIA’s venture capital arm, In-Q-Tel,  has invested in Skincential Sciences, a cosmetics company that uses a technology to take off a very thin top layer of skin. Skincential Sciences makes a line called Clearista, a resurfacing product that, according to its website, “works to retexturize the outer surface of your skin” leading to “a reduction in the appearance of unsightly blemishes, roughness and unevenness to reveal smoother, younger skin.”

While at first this sounds like a great at-home peel product, there is a twist. The technology used to take off the skin reveals “unique biomarkers that can be used for a variety of diagnostic tests, including DNA collection” in the process. 

According to The Intercept, the outlet that first uncovered this investment, Russ Leibovitz, the CEO of Skincential Sciences, said he didn’t know exactly why the CIA was funding the line. “Our company is an outlier for In-Q-Tel,” Leibovitz told The Intercept. “If there’s something beneath the surface, that’s not part of our relationship and I’m not directly aware. They’re interested here in something that can get easy access to biomarkers.” Leibovitz adds that the investors approached him and were “specifically interested in the diagnostics” and his product’s ability to “pull out DNA.”

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“The CIA interest in the company looks like it has to do with the ability to understand the microbial habitat of an individual,” explains cosmetic chemist Kelly Dobos. “As the understanding of the human skin microbiome grows, we are learning that an individuals microbiome may be as unique as their fingerprint. One particular study showed that you could match the microbiome of an individual’s fingertips to samples taken from keyboards. So it could be a potential forensic technique.”

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While the DNA collection abilities of the product may prove ultimately useful, in terms of pure skin care, don’t expect a miracle just yet. Dobos adds, “The Clearista formulas claim that their combination of ingredients is effective at enhancing the skin-renewal process, but I don’t see anything particularly groundbreaking in the ingredients statements.”

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