Innovation That Matters

Biofabricated leather

US startup releases lab-grown leather


New Jersey-based startup is a pioneer in biologically advanced materials creating the first ever biofabricated materials brand

Five years in development, Modern Meadow recently debuted its lab-grown animal-free leather materials at the ‘Items: Is Fashion Modern?’ exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York – which runs until January 28th 2018.

The technology behind the ZOA leather material is based around DNA editing, as the biological component of leather isn’t actually animal skin but rather the protein collagen. Modern Meadow starts with a naturally occurring strain of yeast and using DNA-sequence editing, these ordinary yeast cells are transformed into little factories that churn out collagen. They grow the collagen and assemble it into a material that then cab be processed and can be tanned and fashioned into various products.

The global leather industry is worth over USD 100 billion a year, but the traditional method of slaughtering cattle for its skin is environmentally damaging. Modern Meadow’s leather material could be mass produced, can be thinner than traditional leather but with no reduction in strength, and is virtually indistinguishable from the real thing. “Our technology enables designers to explore materials in exciting new ways, enabling never-seen-before functionality, aesthetics and performance possibilities,” commented Modern Meadow’s Chief Creative Officer, Suzanne Lee.

Modern Meadow have been working on animal-friendly alternatives for some years now, including even attempting to replicate hamburger meat artificially. Another company that has successfully biofabricated animal products is Pembient, who were able to 3D print rhino horns through advanced biotechnology to deter poachers. What other materials could be generated in the lab to make widely used products more sustainable?



Download PDF