The Power of Ostrich Inc.

Harnessing the ‘most powerful immune system of any land animal’

Seneca partners with ostrich farm for cosmetics, antibody applied research

Dec. 2, 2021

Forget celebrities and their high-priced moisturizers. A team of Seneca Cosmetic Science students has developed an all-natural face cream that may just hold the secret to softer and smoother skin.

And they have Yelena Anikeyeva and her ostriches to thank.

“If you touch my skin, you’ll see how crazy soft it is,” said Ms. Anikeyeva, founder and CEO of Ostrich Land and owner of its online store, Power of Ostrich, which is partnering with Seneca on a suite of applied research projects looking at the benefits of ostrich oil and ostrich egg white, yolk and shells.

Ms. Anikeyeva, her husband, Vladimir, and their son, Alexsey, are ostrich farmers in the Niagara Region. They initially teamed up with Seneca on a cosmetic science capstone project, for which the Seneca team developed a moisturizing face cream using ostrich oil and egg yolk.

“Ostriches have the most powerful immune system of any land animal,” Ms. Anikeyeva said. “For some people, ostrich oil works like a miracle. Look at me, I work outside every day, but my skin looks like I work in an office.”

Ms. Anikeyeva is now working with the Seneca Centre for Innovation in Life Sciences on two new projects.

The first is to design and formulate an eczema cream infused with ostrich oil and yolk. It will be co-led by Sonal Kamath and Sharon Robertson, both professors in the School of Biological Sciences & Applied Chemistry. They will supervise a Cosmetic Science student, who will be a full-time research assistant on this project.

The resulting prototype cream will add to Power of Ostrich’s product line.

“With an ostrich egg, you get more fatty acids because it’s bigger than a chicken egg,” Ms. Robertson said. “You are putting all this concentrated stuff into a very thick yolk, which has a lot of antioxidants to help the skin to rejuvenate itself. It’s like you are double dipping and getting twice the amount of the good things.”

The second project with Power of Ostrich will investigate antibodies found in ostrich eggs and extracting them to potentially fight eczema, acne and other skin disorders. This project will be co-led by Dr. Frank Merante and Bryan Chalk and supported by two part-time student research assistants.

Dr. Merante, who previously worked on developing chicken antibodies as part of his PhD, says they will get about four to five grams of antibodies from each ostrich egg. 

This is desirable as an ostrich can lay up to 100 eggs a year in Africa and 50 in Canada, and they can live for 60 years in captivity,” he said. “The avian species are clever. They load up their yolk with antibodies, which then get transferred into the embryo. Everything the mother bird is immune to gets passed on the chicks.”

With the same theory in mind, the team has been monitoring an ostrich farm in British Columbia working on developing antibodies against COVID-19.

“If an ostrich is vaccinated against COVID-19 using a vaccine or similar protein, then the yolk from her eggs could theoretically contain antibodies against the virus or another pathogen of interest,” said Dr. Merante.

The goal for Seneca’s ostrich egg-related applied research is to develop a procedure that can be implemented for large-scale productions of antibodies for cosmetic and immunodiagnostic applications.

“Utilizing ostrich eggs as a resource could be really impactful across several disciplines, including cosmetics, diagnostics and therapeutics,” Dr. Merante said. “It’s fascinating.”

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