The CIA just invested in a skincare line that’s named after James Bond’s technology designer and collects your DNA

Clearista CIA vc funding
Screen grab from a Clearista promotional video. Clearista

The Central Intelligence Agency’s venture capital arm, In-Q-Tel, provided funding for an unlikely company: Skincential Sciences, according to documents obtained by The Intercept.

Skincential’s consumer brand, Clearista, makes “skin resurfacing” products designed to make your skin clearer and more “youthful,” according to their website.

But the CIA isn’t just interested in youthful-looking skin.

Skincential developed a patented technology that painlessly strips a thin outer layer of skin, collecting unique biomarkers that can be used for DNA collection, according to The Intercept.

It’s a system that allows the CIA to glean data about people’s unique biochemistry.

“I can’t tell you how everyone works with In-Q-Tel, but they are very interested in doing things that are pure science,” Russ Lebovitz, the CEO of Skincential, told The Intercept. “If there’s something beneath the surface, that’s not part of our relationship and I’m not directly aware. They’re interested here in something that can get easy access to biomarkers.”

In-Q-Tel itself was founded in 1999 by former CIA director George Tenet. Its website says that it is an “independent, not-for-profit organisation created to bridge the gap between the technology needs of the US intelligence community and emerging commercial innovation.”

If all this sounds like something straight out of a science fiction movie, that’s because it is.

In-Q-Tel was named after Q, the fictional character who makes technology for James Bond, the world’s most famous fictional spy, according to NPR.

“We really needed something that also had appeal to a wider audience and, frankly, had some sex to it,” Jeffrey Smith, the CIA’s former general counsel told NPR in 2012.

Clearista cia funding
Before-and-after photos are a staple of any skincare commercial. Clearista screengrab.

In-Q-Tel has also been a major player in Silicon Valley over the past decade.

“Much of the touch-screen technology used now in iPads and other things came out of various companies that In-Q-Tel identified,” Smith told NPR.

As for Skincential, the company has more grounded ambitions. Lebovitz, the CEO, told The Intercept that he hopes it will be acquired by a larger beauty products company.

At a conference in February, that brought together senior members of the intelligence community and Silicon Valley heavy hitters, Lebovitz told The Intercept that he was the, “odd man out,” but that, “almost every woman at the conference wanted to come up to me to talk about skin care.”

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