Imagine going to the store, buying a pair or boots, a leather jacket, or a a pair of sneakers, and not having the guilt of knowing where that leather came from. Imagine a time when perfect leather could be obtained without having to kill a single animal, or a time when the steak and fish you eat for dinner could be 3D printed in a lab, free of pain and suffering. One Brooklyn New York company, Modern Meadow is trying to make that possible, and this week they got a little bit closer.
Horizons Ventures, the firm of Hong Kong based business magnate Li Ka-shing, has invested $10 million into the futuristic company, at a valuation close to $60 million. The Series A venture funding will be used to further expand the company’s facility, open a larger research headquarters, and hire additional employees. Back in February we covered Modern Meadow’s decision to move out of Missouri and into a new 10,000 square foot facility in Brooklyn. The decision was based on the trendy fashion scene in the area, a perfect way for Modern Meadow to get their foot in the door with clothing designers, who may be interested in their biofabricated leather.
The company is led by Andras Forgacs, who is no stranger to either 3D bioprinting, or raising funds for a start up. Forgacs is a co-founder of the now $530 million+ company, Organova, who 3D prints living human tissue. Forgacs will now concentrate mainly on developing biofabricated leather, and later meat, which is produced by culturing cells taken from animals, via a noninvasive biopsy. The cells can then be printed out, and grown over time to create near perfect tissue.
Currently it takes a one square foot piece of leather approximately 45 days to fully mature. This may seen like a long time, but when you consider the 2-3 year timeframe it would take to raise an animal, feed it, and provide it shelter, such technology seems quite promising.
The company which was initially funded by Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel, looks to become a major player within the leather industry, which currently is worth over $63 billion annually, and is expected to grow to a $91.2 billion market by 2018. Modern Meadow looks to cut their costs, and produce leather at cost approximately equal to what you’d pay right now for the material. The only difference is that their product will be free of any flaws.
“Real steak is a big stretch. It won’t be the first product since steak is very hard to make for now,” explained Andras Forgacs. “The first wave of meat products to be made with this approach will likely be minced meats (burgers, sausages, etc.) and pates (goose liver pate, etc.).”
It will be interesting to see how far this funding takes the company, and if Forgacs plans to eventually take Modern Meadow public like his last company. We would love to hear opinions on this story. Would you eat bioprinted meat, or purchase bioprinted leather over that of traditional leather? Let us know in the Modern Meadow forum thread at 3DPB.com.