Evonik’s venture capital arm has invested in a start-up that sustainably produces biofabricated materials that are inspired by leather, eliminating the need for animal skins. Modern Meadow’s technology produces animal-free collagen, a protein naturally found in animal hides, via a fermentation process using yeast cells. The investment in the start-up, based in Nutley, New Jersey, follows a successful partnership between the two companies in which Evonik is supporting the development of a commercial scale process to produce collagen.
“Consumer demand for non-animal derived products is increasing rapidly,” said Lutz Stoeber, investment director for Evonik Venture Capital in North America. “With this investment Evonik is supporting Modern Meadow in developing a sustainable animal-friendly technology.”
The biofabricated material produced by this animal-free method, more closely resembles animal leather than synthetic equivalents because it contains collagen, the main structural component in cow hides. ZoaTM biofabricated materials, Modern Meadow’s first branded materials line, will be offered in a variety of shapes, sizes, textures and colors. The technology opens possibilities to create materials inspired by leather with new properties, such as lighter-weight options, new processing forms, and patterning. Modern Meadow is developing both leather-like composites, which allow for superior mechanical properties, and non-composite materials.
Collagen has many forms and applications that go beyond leather-like materials. As the most abundant protein found in the human body, it has many pharmaceutical and medical applications. Collagen promotes the healing of wounds, guides tissue regeneration and can revitalize the skin, areas in which Evonik has research activities. The investment strengthens Evonik’s Health & Care growth engine, one of the areas that the company has identified as a growth driver.
“We are excited to further strengthen our partnership with Modern Meadow, a highly dynamic and visionary company,” said Jean-Luc Herbeaux, head of Evonik’s Health Care business line. “The fit is perfect as we are also looking into opportunities provided by biofabricated collagen for the healthcare market.”
In March 2018, Evonik and Modern Meadow agreed to collaborate to bring the production of Modern Meadow’s collagen to commercial scale while optimizing the process productivity. Evonik has more than three decades of experience in the development, scale-up and commercial production of fermentation-based products and has developed leading competencies in the field of protein fermentation. The plan is to start commercial production in 2020 at an Evonik site in Slovakia, which is specialized in pilot and low- to mid-scale production of specialty bio-fermented products.
“After successfully partnering with Evonik in 2018, we are thrilled to deepen our relationship and bring them on board as an investor,” said Andras Forgacs, chief executive officer and co-founder of Modern Meadow. “We look forward to accelerating our growth and scaling our technology with their support and expertise.”
The animal and artificial leather market combined is estimated to be worth $190 billion with many applications such as automotive, footwear, furniture, garments and bags.