Meet the Member: Modern Synthesis

By Esther Ellard

Modern Synthesis is a London based biomaterial start-up looking to help evolve the way we make fashion materials, with biology.

Jen (co-founder and CEO) is a bio-designer and material explorer, having spent the last 10 years working in materials and innovation for the fashion and sportswear space.

Jen joined forces with Ben (co-founder and CTO), a bioengineer and materials expert with a PhD from Imperial College London, over a shared optimism of what biology can do.

What do you make?

We employ microbes to grow new types of materials made of cellulose, the natural building block of common materials like cotton and wood, through a process we call microbial weaving.

We see this as the next generation of biomaterials, helping to displace petro-chemical based synthetic leathers and films with completely new types of bio-composite materials that are naturally biodegradable, infinitely renewable, and yes, inherently vegan.

What is your process, how do you come up with ideas, what inspires you?

Despite the frankly depressing data showing the impact of the fashion industry on our environment, we still believe in fashion and the innate human impulse of self-expression and creating beauty. We think a closer look at nature and biology could help us evolve our approach to making. Afterall, nature has had 3.8 billion years to perfect the ultimate circular economy: Life.

We want to provide the materials for regenerative creation. Cellulose is the most abundant polymer on earth, and the building block for most plant based materials from cotton to linen to wood. We believe this versatile fiber will play a vital role in the transition to the new circular economy because it is inherently low-cost, biodegradable, and – as evident in nature – adaptable to many different applications.

We use a biofabrication process, which means the material structure is actually grown-in without the need for heavy chemical processing or harmful binders. To do this, we create a yarn scaffold using automated fiber placement which we then grow bacteria in and around to create a strong, lightweight material with boundless opportunity for design and performance customisation.

What are you working on at the moment and what is the aim for your project/business?

We are currently focused on refining our process for scaling, and exploring potential applications of our materials.


Read more about Modern Synthesis here

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Posted By Esther Ellard