Modern Synthesis grows with new investment


Biomaterials startup Modern Synthesis has bagged over $4 million in seed funding to accelerate the development of its microbial textile platform. Founded by Jen Keane and Ben Reeve, the London-based company is growing materials of the future with microbes with the aim of curbing fashion industry emissions and plastic pollution.


According to one of the investors, AgFunder, most of the investment will be used to build a new pilot facility in southwest London, enabling Modern Synthesis to expand its team, increase its capacity, and scale up the production of these materials as quickly, widely, and responsibly as possible.


‘We are excited to be partnering with a group of investors who share our optimism for a brighter material future and bring a wealth of experience from both biotech and fashion sectors to our team,’ said Modern Synthesis via Instagram.

modern synthesis just raised $4.1M to grow textiles from microbes
images and video courtesy of Modern Synthesis



what is microbial weaving?


Modern Synthesis’ patent-pending microbial weaving process uses a bacteria called k.rhaeticus, which is one of the bacteria found in kombucha tea, to ‘weave’ customizable biotextiles and composites. It’s a biofabrication process, meaning the material is actually grown from a microbe; the k.rhaeticus bacteria trail tiny fibers of nanocellulose behind them as they grow to form a dense non-woven fiber. To shape an object, the team creates a scaffold using robotics to place fibers in the desired shape or structure. The bacteria then grow material around those structures to create a strong, lightweight biomaterial.


‘Technically speaking, it’s not really weaving, but it’s a good analogy,’ explains the company. ‘If we talk about our process in the context of traditional weaving: we’re weaving the warp, and the bacteria are growing the weft.’

modern synthesis just raised $4.1M to grow textiles from microbes




the applications


One of the biggest advantages of microbial weaving is that, much like 3D printing, you can grow an object to the exact shape, meaning very little or no waste. In 2018, Keane explored the applications of the biomaterial grown from k.rhaeticus by growing the upper part of a shoe. Modern Synthesis also explored giving the shoe a color by collaborating with bioengineer Marcus Walker, who has used genetic engineering techniques to develop a self-dyeing bacteria that produces both cellulose and melanin. Using this bacterium, Modern Synthesis grew a 100% compostable black shoe colored by a single genetically modified organism (GMO).

modern synthesis just raised $4.1M to grow textiles from microbes



Modern Synthesis revealed to AFN that it has already delivered its materials to a ‘key sportswear customer’ for prototyping.


As it moves forward, the startup will continue its mission to replace animal- and petrochemical-derived materials and contribute toward a circular economy by designing out waste.


‘What we’re trying to do is build this new class of materials that is more sustainable but also allows us to design and create in new ways, which is really exciting for the fashion industry,’ Keane told AFN. ‘At the end of the day, we’re trying to build a circular manufacturing system with these microbes. That enables us to leverage agricultural waste and use the microbes as manufacturing units and transfer them into more viable materials. On the flip side, we see the opportunity to have new-class materials that are fully cellulosic, so we can recycle them back into silos and recycling streams.’

modern synthesis just raised $4.1M to grow textiles from microbes modern synthesis just raised $4.1M to grow textiles from microbes



project info:


company: Modern Synthesis