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The Spark Behind the Science

From the outset, Silk Therapeutics has been a mission-driven endeavor for founders and close friends, Rebecca (Beck) Horan and Greg Altman. Though both top scientists in silk biomaterials, it was their life experience outside the lab that inspired them to start Silk Therapeutics.

Beck and Greg, who both hold PhDs in their respective fields, have been scientific partners for over 15 years. They first met as students at Tufts University outside Boston, where Horan studied mechanical and biomedical engineering, and Altman chemistry and biotechnology engineering.

Altman, a father of two, is married to a sociologist of health and the environment. For the past decade, he watched his wife study chemical contaminants in everyday products, some of which were detectable in breast milk and blood. Through her, the possible health effects of chemical additives were already forefront in his mind. Years later, after spending his career working with Beck on implantable silk devices for the medical field, he was at an allergist appointment with his son, who suffered from food allergies and eczema. The allergist prescribed daily application of lotions loaded with chemical preservatives—including one of the chemicals his wife had been studying because known to interfere with the function of hormones. How is it, he thought, that products meant to benefit us wind up inflicting harm in the process?

For Beck, the issue was also personal.

Seven years earlier, in her mid-twenties, she underwent chemotherapy for a rare ovarian cancer. During treatment, her doctors cautioned against conventional beauty products, which previously had been an everyday part of her life. They were just too harsh for her compromised system and sensitive skin. Then from Stacy Malkan’s book, Not Just a Pretty Face, Beck read just how many cancer-causing ingredients the beauty industry routinely adds to its products.

And so Beck and Greg arrived at the same vision: to reduce the burden of chemicals on human health – through the ways we treat our skin. This was when the problems they lived came face-to-face with the combined scientific and business know-how they had cultivated over the past decade. They believed that pure silk could be the answer to truly clean and effective skincare.

 

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