August 2006
Keratec is a manufacturing, product development and technology licensing company formed in 2003 and owned by Wool Equities, Canesis Network (75% Wool Equities and 25% Wool Research Organisation of NZ (WRONZ, a growers trust) and executive shareholders, including CEO Bruce Foulds (4%). The Wool Equities ownership adds up to 88.8%, on behalf of 12,000 grower shareholders.

Keratecs business is extracting high-value keratin protein fractions from New Zealand wool using patented and proprietary processes.

Keratec is still being established and expanded, which requires capital from Wool Equities, although it has commercialised new products and formed many business relationships and partnerships.

In the 2005 Wool Equities annual report it was disclosed that five products from Keratec are making sales, three products are at sampling stage, and eight more at various stages from proof of concept to manufacturing agreements.

Since July 2004, Keratec has concentrated its business in three global sectors: personal care, consumer health and medical materials.

Personal care: Keratec supplies functional active ingredients to the cosmetics industry through Croda International for formulation into hair, skin and nail care products.

Consumer health: Ingestible forms of keratin proteins are distributed to key brand owners as ingredients for nutraceutical and cosmeceutical products.

Medical materials: Keratec has developed special forms of its keratin materials for use in orthopaedic and wound care applications.

Keratec earned about $800,000 in the year to June 30, 2005, whiles its expenses were $3.5 million. Wool Equities contributed $2.7 million to cover the shortfall.

Keratec expects revenue to grow, slowly at first, as multinational companies in the personal care sector continue to trial, test and integrate Keratec products into existing and new consumer product ranges over a period of up to two years.

Keratec and Canesis run scientific trials and tests to substantiate performance claims for keratin-derived products, along with trialling formulations from customers.

Keratec keratins are purified forms of particular classes of keratin proteins, that perform different roles within keratin materials. Isolating, for example, keratin intermediate filament proteins that make hair strong, or keratin matrix proteins that bind components of hair together, has never been done before. Further, most Keratec keratins are intact proteins, isolated using a proprietary process that does not hydrolyse the protein bonds. This is important to maintain the specific properties that keratins have. Other keratins are a mix of different classes of keratin proteins that are broken down to the extent that many of their key characteristics are lost.

Keratec keratins are isolated from pure New Zealand wool using processes which guarantee no harm to animals. Other keratins are often isolated from slaughter house waste such as horns and hooves.


The wool for the Keratec processing comes from Canterbury Romney sheep, facilitated by Wool Services International, the scourer and exporter. The contract specifications ensure that the wool is of consistently high standard, from selected flocks, of a specific breed and documented genetic heritage. Premium prices are paid by Keratec.

Keratin is a family of more than 200 normally non-soluble proteins that play a fundamental role in nature, in hair, skin and nails. The Keratec processes gently isolate fractions of keratin proteins from pure NZ wool, and then by reconstituting these biopolymers, Keratec can capture the distinct and highly functional characteristics of the original proteins and lipids and use them in different product types and applications. Keratin is normally non-soluble and cannot be absorbed or ingested. Keratec has made the proteins soluble and digestible, leaving the natural amino acid structure intact therefore potent.


The major products so far which would be of interest to wool growers and NZ farmers generally are:

Keratec IFP hair care, through anti-aging, manageability, anti-oxidant and UV protection. It comes in eight formulations.

Keratec Pep hair and skin care active ingredient, from a functionalised, protein hydrolysate prepared from food-grade enzyme digestion of pure NZ wool.

Keratec ProSina hand and nail care active ingredient

Cynatine FLX joint health product, as a natural alternative to glucosamine and chondroitin combining potent joint health and anti-oxidant properties into a single premium ingredient extracted from pure New Zealand wool.

Pronine pet care products for moisturising and protecting fur.

The future

Keratec is researching the medical uses of keratin with joint venture partner Keraplast Technologies, based in San Antonio, Texas. One of its founders (1960s) first described the tissue inertness of keratin and suggested that keratin extracts from hair and wool could be used as platform technology in a new line of biomaterials. Keraplast has an extensive patent portfolio covering such diverse applications as wound healing, bone regeneration, keratin protein coatings for medical devices and tissue scaffolds for tissue engineering. Two of keratins advantages are that it is not rejected by the body and is biodegradable.

Keratec also has research work and commercialisation ongoing with keratin-based bone devices, developed by University of Otago, which do not have the drawbacks of metal and chemical polymers. New bone forms on the keratin devices and there is no reaction and rejection, which would normally be expected when a foreign protein enters the human body.