Biotech is female: Gabriella Colucci, microbiologist and Arterra Bioscience founder

Microbiologist and founder of a Neapolitan biotech company Arterra Bioscience, with extensive experience abroad and solid Italian roots. This is who Colucci is

Gabriella Colucci is a microbiologist, with international experience, and also founder of the biotech company Arterra Bioscience, established in the eastern area of Naples, with 80% of female employees. The company is specialized in obtaining concentrates of bioactive molecules from which to derive finished products. Recently, the Ministero delle Imprese e del Made in Italy (MIMIT) granted funds to Arterra for a R&D project on “Development of a biotechnological platform for the production, transportation, and validation of the effectiveness of bioactive compounds for the cosmetic, nutraceutical, and agri-food sectors”.

From international experience to returning to Italy

The biotech company Arterra Bioscience was founded in 2004 by the Neapolitan Gabriella Colucci, a graduate in Agriculture with a thesis on bacterial genetics, and specialized in microbiology. She studied and worked abroad, but it was in a prestigious laboratory in San Diego, California, where she carried out research projects in plant genetics in the cosmetic field and in new raw materials in the nutraceutical and medical device sectors. Despite the opportunities in America, she chose to return to Naples and open her company there.

Naples is the San Diego of Europe,” says Colucci to La Repubblica, “but it’s not easy to make people understand that who have a stereotypical image of the city. The fact of being listed on the stock exchange and therefore having clear financial statements helps us attract young talents. So, since 2019, we decided to go public on the AIM market of the Italian Stock Exchange. Our partner is Intercos, an Italian company that is the largest third-party manufacturer in the world of cosmetics: makeup, skincare, personal care, and now perfumes. Even the latest one from Dolce and Gabbana.

Female-majority company

Arterra has around thirty patents and forty employees, twenty of whom are PhDs with experience in various biotechnology sectors. Of the staff, 80 percent are women, and the expert in this regard states: “Biology is very feminine. In these years, we have also had many children. We make real technologies, with cosmetics we generate revenues of five million euros thanks to the strong alliance with Intercos and a joint venture with another company, Vitalab, which deals with sales. They put our active principles in their products. We have reached an agreement and we are their biotech arm, the production is sold worldwide with the most prestigious fashion brands. Moreover, 60 percent of the global production in this sector is made in Italy. They have plants everywhere. We couldn’t find a better partner.

We are like a small multinational,” continues Colucci, “we have expertise in chemistry, physics, skin biology, and the gastric system. We cultivate roots, fungi, algae, but then we work on chronic intestinal infections, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, a much more pharma-oriented study. Today, only by increasing internal skills can innovation be achieved. I need engineers, computer scientists, and other professionals to make our research concrete. We have a product for acne on the market, a screening platform for nutraceutical molecules, and one for combination molecules, a proprietary system of lactobacilli to create proteins, RNA, and peptides, with a human-friendly bacterium, interesting molecules for pharma and agrifood companies. We are the only ones in the world capable of engineering and doing synthetic biology, for example, producing ceramides or high-value-added molecules, through precision fermentation.”

My goal,” she concludes, “was to make a difference, to create a healthy work environment with its own morality. And I achieved it.”