Friday, June 30, 2017
Engineering new forms of life
The natural world has its limits, though. Tanned animal skin may make for stylish boots, motorcycle jackets and handbags—supporting an industry worth about $200 billion a year—but it’s still animal skin. That would seem to be an insurmountable problem if you’re one of the hundreds of millions of vegetarians around the world, or even just someone who worries about the environmental impact of raising tens of billions of animals for clothing and food. But it’s not the animal skin that makes leather leather—it’s collagen, a tough, fibrous protein that is a major biological component of animal connective tissue, including skin. If there was a way to manufacture collagen alone, it might be possible to produce leather that even the most dedicated animal-rights activist could love.
And that’s exactly what’s happening on the eighth floor of the cavernous Brooklyn Army Terminal on New York’s waterfront, where Modern Meadow has its labs and offices.