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The U.S start-up, Modern Meadow, has already registered over a dozen patents, grows leather in a lab from skin cells to produce collagen.
Based in Brooklyn, New York, Modern Meadow is said to have found a process to create leather without harming animals. The company, which has been focusing on research and development for the past four years, has raised US$40 million from Nest founder Tony Fadell, Li Ka-shing's Horizon Ventures, the "Zuck and friends' billionaire fund" Iconiq Capital, Breakout Ventures, Artis Ventures, and Singapore's Temasek.
Through a process called "biofabrication", the company is able to grow pieces of artificial leather, using skin cells that have been programmed to produce collagen identical to that of a cow or any other animal. Once the collagen is grown into leather, it is treated by a tannery for use in a variety of finished products.
According to Modern Meadow, the leather thickness, elasticity and aesthetic can be controlled. “We are making real, fully biological leather, that is unlike most synthetic leather which is made from plastic and chemicals”, said Andras Forgacs, Founder and CEO, Modern Meadow.
"[Making leather] is a really long process with a lot of inefficiencies as you’re working subtractively; removing the hair, flesh and the fat from the hide. Instead, we work additively. We create collagen to make the material and that’s it", he added.
The start-up is not yet commercialising its products but has plans to partner with fashion companies and tanneries. Prior to starting Modern Meadow, Forgacs co-founded a publicly-traded 3D bioprinting company called Organovo, which was able to make skin models of fully-functioning livers and kidneys.
"Leather being a US$100 billion global market is large enough to keep us busy for quite a while”, said Forgacs.
Source: Tech Insider