Brooklyn-based start-up Modern Meadow, which gained notoriety with its capability to grow meat in the lab, has raised $40 million to pursue a different material: leather. The funding round was led by Horizons Ventures and Iconiq Capital.
Modern Meadow calls its product “biofabricated leather.” The firm says its scientists have genetically engineered cells to produce collagen—the key component of animal hide—in varying types and quantities.
Making collagen is just one step of the process, says Modern Meadow Chief Technology Officer David Williamson. “Another important part is the organization of the collagen into the finished product—the remarkable biocomposite of protein and chemicals that make leather.”
The firm’s design ability means it can make new types of leather, such as a hide that is much thinner than one from a cow. And the company claims its leather-making process is up to 80% less wasteful and requires less chemical processing. Forgacs says the company will use the funds to scale up its cell-culture technology and supply samples to customers.
But the firm has its skeptics. “There’s no clear value proposition for what Modern Meadow is doing,” says Jennie Lynch, research associate at Lux Research.
“At best, the market for this material is incredibly niche and not large enough to justify the costs,” Lynch says.