Grads innovate skincare with cutting-edge technology


Anna Kotova and Ksenia Timonina, former York University PhD students, converge science and cosmetics in their venture Agenek – a gene diagnostic skincare company that leverages emerging technology in innovative ways.

The root of Agenek – which offers personalized skincare reports and recommendations – began after Kotova and Timonina’s graduate studies in the Department of Biology at York.

A focus on molecular biology and genetics laid the foundation for their venture, as their shared expertise and passion for understanding genetic mechanisms naturally led them to explore innovative applications in skincare technology. 

Notably, they recognized the potential of transcriptomic analysis, which looks at ribonucleic acid (RNA), which has structural similarities to DNA.

“While the DNA testing market may be saturated, we are pioneering the use of RNA biology to develop a direct-to-consumer skin test for personalized skincare,” explains Kotova.

Their company’s groundbreaking transcriptomic analysis dives deep into the RNA molecules within facial skin cells, offering dynamic insights into skin health. It differs from DNA-based tests, providing a comprehensive view of the skin’s current condition and guiding personalized recommendations based on gene expression profiles. The methodology is unique to the beauty industry, placing Agenek at the forefront of personalized skincare solutions, Kotova says.

The process begins with a testing kit ordered from Agenek’s website, which includes a microneedle patch applied to the skin for 10 minutes. The sample is then sent to the company’s Kitchener, Ont., laboratory, while users provide additional insights via a digital questionnaire. Then, Agenek delivers a personalized report outlining unique skin needs and customized product recommendations. 

Through the analysis of gene expression profiles, Agenek identifies specific “problem genes” and provides targeted recommendations for existing skin-care products, empowering individuals to make informed decisions about their skincare routines.

Supported by YSpace ELLA Women Accelerator, Lab2Market, MaRS and other agencies, Agenek benefits from a robust network offering essential resources and guidance to Kotova and Timonina to scale their innovative skincare venture.

A future goal is to advance skincare science while offering individuals enhanced skincare options, potentially improving their quality of life.

“We hope to empower individuals to better understand their skin’s unique needs and make informed decisions about skincare products and treatments,” Kotova says. “By providing comprehensive insights into gene expression profiles and offering tailored recommendations, we seek to improve overall skin health and confidence.”