Introduction
Non-woven biomaterials made with bacterial nanocellulose and natural textile scaffold

A design platform

reinventing materials.

What we do

We build upon 3.8 billion years of microbial evolution to craft an entirely new class of natural materials, which displace animal-and-fossil-fuel derived alternatives.

Bacteria growing in a petri dish to be used for creating biomaterials
Naturally biodegradable shoe upper grown from bacteria

Why we do it

Invisible to the human eye, microbes naturally convert agricultural sugars into valuable material building blocks. Inspired by their efficiency, Modern Synthesis is reinventing materials for a materially better future.

How we do it

Our patent-pending biotechnology process merges biology, material science, engineering, and design to produce materials that are circular by nature, and customisable by design.

Our platform connects the dots between

Biomaterials company in a collaborative meeting

Biology

Harnessing the natural abilities of microbes with the latest biological tools to produce a highly adaptable natural fiber called nanocellulose

Biomaterials company in a collaborative meeting

Material Science

Exploring the boundaries of nanomaterials, fiber science and green chemistry to reimagine what natural materials are capable of

Biomaterials company in a collaborative meeting

Engineering

Designing the tools and systems to drive circularity, we hack existing equipment and create new systems with scale and accessibility in mind

Biomaterials company in a collaborative meeting

Craft

Building on centuries of textile craft, we collaborate with skilled artisans and industry experts to ensure the highest level of quality and workability

A cross-disciplinary team

We bring together experts across diverse fields to craft innovative solutions to the most complex challenges of our time - and we do it all by putting intentionality, collaboration, and growth on a pedestal.

Partnership

Partner with us

to co-culture new material futures

What if materials could enable, rather than limit, human creativity? Questions are powerful and we want to hear yours - whether you're interested in partnering with us or you want to know more about a particular element of our work.

Careers

We are hiring

Join the biomaterial revolution

Every job at Modern Synthesis plays a critical role in co-culturing material change. Will you join us?

An evolving material platform, unlocking infinite design possibilities

Press
Stories

Could this be the leather of the future?

CNN, May 2024
Start-up Modern Synthesis is creating new materials by working with living organisms – bacteria. The aim is to create low-carbon alternatives to traditional fabrics, curbing emissions and plastic pollution. “For the first time, we’re able to offer the aesthetic and performance of the materials that we use everyday but without the plastic and without the animal. I can’t stress how hard that is.”

Press

Meet the founder: Jen Keane

AgFunder News, January 2024
Modern Synthesis combines nanocellulose created by sugar-eating bacteria, with natural textiles. According to Keane, the process is “similar to how rebar is used to reinforce concrete” and generates materials that “can be processed on the same equipment as conventional textiles.” But how efficient are bugs at creating bags, and how scalable is Modern Synthesis’ patent-pending technology?

Press
Stories

GANNI unveils bag made from bacterial leather at LDF

Dezeen, September 2023
Bacteria were used to form this one-off edition of the Bou Bag by Danish fashion brand GANNI, made from a leather alternative by London biotech company Modern Synthesis that contains no plastic or petrochemicals. “Collaborating with GANNI on the Bou Bag has allowed us to showcase the viability of bacterial cellulose-based materials in real-world applications,” said Modern Synthesis CEO Jen Keane.

Technology

Reinventing materials

Bacteria growing in a petri dish to be used for making biomaterials
Bacterial nanocellulose pellicle
Nanocellulose fibres as seen through a microscope at nanoscale
Upper of a shoe that has been formed in one piece using bacterial nanocellulose around a natural textile scaffold
Black and white non-woven materials that have been made with bacteria and natural textile scaffolding

The result: a revolutionary class of nonwoven materials which can be tuned to displace a spectrum of textiles, from plastic films to leathers.

Animal-free and petrochemical-free biomaterials grown with bacteria

Microcraft

Redefining textile craft, from the nanoscale. Inspiring the senses with the exceptional strength, refined beauty and tactility of nanocellulose, this new class of materials unlocks new design possibilities, bringing life to a new era of luxury.

Animal-free and petrochemical-free biomaterials grown with bacteria

Natural technicals

The next generation of performance, by nature – plastic-free technical textiles are here, offering a sleek, highly adaptable alternative to synthetic coated materials with the intrinsic circularity of cellulosics.

Partnership

Partner with us

to co-culture new material futures

We're collaborating with some of the most ambitious companies in the world to reinvent materials. Get in touch with us today to discuss your material needs.

Impact

Reimagining systems

Samples of non-woven biomaterial laying on an atelier cutting table ready to be designed
Green chemistry: chemicals being mixed in a biotechnology lab for use in making biomaterials with bacteria

Our evolving biotechnology process addresses 5 related challenges: GHG emissions, waste, land use, plastic pollution and animal welfare.

Our technology drives systems changes across

  • Protecting animal welfare with animal-free materials

    Animal welfare

    Unlike leathers and exotic skins, our materials don’t necessitate animal slaughter, and unlike ‘vegan leathers,’ they don’t rely on harmful additives

  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions

    Greenhouse gas emissions

    Research suggests that our GHG emissions could be significantly lower than leather and petrochemical-based textiles

  • Eliminating food waste with circular product cycles

    Food waste

    Since our microbes can digest any kind of agricultural sugar feedstocks, we minimise waste and enable a decentralised closed loop system

  • Reducing land use for fashion and maximising land use for agriculture

    Land use

    Bioreactors take up much less space than farms or chemical plants, radically reducing the amount of land needed to produce a meter of material

  • Conserving water usage in material production

    Plastic pollution

    Unlike synthetic textiles, our 100% plastic-free materials can be designed to safely biodegrade, reducing ecosystem degradation and microplastic shedding

  • Protecting animal welfare with animal-free materials

    Animal welfare

    Unlike leathers and exotic skins, our materials don’t necessitate animal slaughter, and unlike ‘vegan leathers,’ they don’t rely on harmful additives

  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions

    Greenhouse gas emissions

    Research suggests that our GHG emissions could be significantly lower than leather and petrochemical-based textiles

  • Eliminating food waste with circular product cycles

    Food waste

    Since our microbes can digest any kind of agricultural sugar feedstocks, we minimise waste and enable a decentralised closed loop system

  • Reducing land use for fashion and maximising land use for agriculture

    Land use

    Bioreactors take up much less space than farms or chemical plants, radically reducing the amount of land needed to produce a meter of material

  • Conserving water usage in material production

    Plastic pollution

    Unlike synthetic textiles, our 100% plastic-free materials can be designed to safely biodegrade, reducing ecosystem degradation and microplastic shedding

Nature has had 3.8 billion years to perfect the ultimate circular economy: life.

Circular by nature

Modern Synthesis materials are naturally biodegradable, circular, and customisable from the nanoscale up – enabling us to meet fashion industry requirements across sustainability and desirability.

Close-up shot of natural textile scaffolding in biomaterial made with bacteria

Designed for scale

Our process is driven by impact and designed for scale. As our production capacity grows, we plan to leverage existing manufacturing equipment, optimise material design processes for scale, and collaborate with knowledgable ecosystem partners.

Team

Reinventing collaboration

As a team of biologists, chemists, designers, engineers, storytellers, robots and microbes, our team knows that magic happens when disparate disciplines, perspectives and ideas collide.

Founders

Our Founders: Jen Keane (CEO) and Dr. Ben Reeve (CTO)

The first seeds of Modern Synthesis’ future were planted during our Co-founder Jen’s Central Saint Martins MA project, This is Grown. Jen’s Previous work at adidas and Nike inspired her to re-envision the product design process by growing the upper of an athletic shoe with only bacterial nanocellulose and one continuous yarn. While working on This Is Grown, she collaborated closely with scientists from Imperial College London, including our Co-founder Ben, who discovered and sequenced the strain of bacteria that we employ to produce our novel biomaterials today.

With a PhD in bioengineering and previous experiences as the founding CTO of Puraffinity, Ben’s technology vision proved to be the perfect complement to Jen’s design ambitions. Their collaboration was both a response to our ongoing plastic crisis and an attempt to prove the profound design and performance possibilities of new biomaterial technologies. Now at the helm of Modern Synthesis, they remain united by the idea that sustainability, technology, creativity, and beauty can – and should – go hand in hand.

Leadership

Francesca Perona, Head of Product at Modern Synthesis

Francesca Perona

Head of Product

Fran is a materials innovator who finds her chi by connecting the dots between science and engineering R&D

Sarah West Young, Head of Growth at Modern Synthesis

Sarah West Young

Head of Growth

Sarah is a business developer who spends her free time reading, writing, and dreaming about material change

Dr. Neil Buckney, PhD

Head of Engineering

Neil is a materials expert who always has reshaping material manufacturing systems on the brain.

Dr. Ioannis Zampetakis, PhD, Senior Scientist at Modern Synthesis

Dr. Ioannis Zampetakis, PhD

Head of Science

Ioannis is a bioprocess engineer with a deep interest in bioprinting and the world of novel biocomposites

Advisors

  • Dr. Orlando Rojas

    Professor, University of British Columbia and leading expert on biomaterials and finishes.

  • Dr. Tom Ellis

    Professor and Lead of the Tom Ellis Lab at Imperial College in London. Leading expert in synthetic biology.

  • Pierre Denis

    Fashion executive, angel investor and former CEO of Jimmy Choo. Previous experience at LVMH, Dior and Coty.

  • Bill Brady

    Co-Founder, CEO & Director of Kula Bio. Co-Founded Monolith Materials with previous experience at Mascoma.

  • Christopher Chew

    Former Partnerships Manager at Modern Meadow and Blooms. 6 years experience at W.L. Gore.

  • Dr. Orlando Rojas

    Professor, University of British Columbia and leading expert on biomaterials and finishes.

  • Dr. Tom Ellis

    Professor and Lead of the Tom Ellis Lab at Imperial College in London. Leading expert in synthetic biology.

  • Pierre Denis

    Fashion executive, angel investor and former CEO of Jimmy Choo. Previous experience at LVMH, Dior and Coty.

  • Bill Brady

    Co-Founder, CEO & Director of Kula Bio. Co-Founded Monolith Materials with previous experience at Mascoma.

  • Christopher Chew

    Former Partnerships Manager at Modern Meadow and Blooms. 6 years experience at W.L. Gore.

Values

We co-culture change

Co-Culture reflects our commitment to cross-pollination internally and externally, our ability to lean on one another, and our role as a catalyst in both business and culture

We put growth on a pedestal

Growth speaks to our inspiration and creative use of biology, our bias towards impact and scale, and our dedication to empowering industry to ‘grow up’ from a harmful past

We do it all by design

By Design articulates the intentionality, empathy, and creativity built into all aspects of our work. It also speaks to the importance of accountability and core design thinking principles

FAQs

Biomaterials company in a collaborative meeting

Office hours

Once a month we open our digital doors for a Q&A with co-founder Jen Keane. This is an informal session open to students or individuals interested in materials, biofabrication, sustainable fashion and beyond.

Inside a biomaterials lab in London

FAQs

Curious? You can explore answers to all of our most commonly asked questions on our FAQ page below – and if your question isn’t listed you’re always welcome to drop us a line at hello@mod-synth.com

Team

Modern Synthesis team

Our team

Just as natural ecosystems thrive on the diverse abilities and unique contributions of many species, our people form a team that is greater than the sum of its parts. With wide ranging skill sets and varied backgrounds, together we are reinventing collaboration on a continuous basis.

Careers

Our hiring ethos

We hire people, not roles. If you think you’re qualified for a portion of a role, and can demonstrate a proven ability to adapt and take on new challenges, we strongly encourage you to apply.

Materials engineer working on non-woven biomaterials

Internships

As part of our commitment to growing the creative bioeconomy, we regularly offer internship opportunities lasting between 3-6 months. Check in below to see current openings or register your interest in our general application.

Open positions

Chief Operating Officer (Manufacturing)

About the role

We’re seeking a dynamic and visionary Chief Operating Officer (COO) to join our leadership team. You’ll help propel us to new heights as we embark on the next growth stage of our business. Reporting directly to the CEO, you will have a pivotal role in setting and executing our operational strategy and fostering innovation in our manufacturing process. You will be at the forefront of leading a team dedicated to pushing the boundaries of material technologies.

General Application

About the role

If we don’t have a role that suits your experience, you can submit a general application here.

Working at Modern Synthesis requires comfort with rapid innovation cycles and constant growth that comes with working in a start-up. You will need to be proactive and flexible to take on new tasks and challenges, whilst upholding our passion for sustainability and impact.

News

Reframing the narrative

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Events & Workshops
Press
Research
Stories
Press

The biotech company creating fashion with bacteria

Parley for the Oceans, May 2024
In an unassuming laboratory on an industrial estate in South West London is a shoe that’s been grown from bacteria. This new way of approaching material design is organism-led, a technique that collaborates with the origins of life on Earth in order to help design its future. Parley visited the Modern Synthesis lab in London to get a firsthand look at the products they’re making using K.Rhaeticus bacteria.

Press
Stories

Could this be the leather of the future?

CNN, May 2024
Start-up Modern Synthesis is creating new materials by working with living organisms – bacteria. The aim is to create low-carbon alternatives to traditional fabrics, curbing emissions and plastic pollution. “For the first time, we’re able to offer the aesthetic and performance of the materials that we use everyday but without the plastic and without the animal. I can’t stress how hard that is.”

Press

Meet the founder: Jen Keane

AgFunder News, January 2024
Modern Synthesis combines nanocellulose created by sugar-eating bacteria, with natural textiles. According to Keane, the process is “similar to how rebar is used to reinforce concrete” and generates materials that “can be processed on the same equipment as conventional textiles.” But how efficient are bugs at creating bags, and how scalable is Modern Synthesis’ patent-pending technology?

Press
Stories

GANNI unveils bag made from bacterial leather at LDF

Dezeen, September 2023
Bacteria were used to form this one-off edition of the Bou Bag by Danish fashion brand GANNI, made from a leather alternative by London biotech company Modern Synthesis that contains no plastic or petrochemicals. “Collaborating with GANNI on the Bou Bag has allowed us to showcase the viability of bacterial cellulose-based materials in real-world applications,” said Modern Synthesis CEO Jen Keane.

Ganni and Modern Synthesis made a Bou Bag from bacteria | Futureworld
Press
Stories

GANNI and Modern Synthesis made a Bou Bag

Futurevvorld, September 2023
Unveiled at London Design Week 2023, the collaboration reimagines GANNI’s much-loved “Bou Bag” – previously made from a mix of materials, including recycled leather, polyurethane, recycled cotton and polyester – in Modern Synthesis’ bacteria-based alternative material, bacterial nanocellulose, described as “a particularly strong and fine form of cellulose derived from bacterial fermentation.”

Modern Synthesis wallet prototype made from sustainable biomaterial
Press
Stories

This biotextile is making waves in sustainable fashion

Wired Middle East, August 2023
Modern Synthesis uses microbial materials to mimic a wide range of natural materials, unlocking incredible potential for designers around the world. “Luxury fashion brands are hungry for a new wave of sustainable materials that can be tailored to suit their style and products. Thanks to Modern Synthesis’ technology, this programmable biomaterial is no longer a dream for the industry – it’s real.”

Stories

Growing a biomaterial future with Jen Keane

WGSN, April 2023
Jen Keane joins WGSN on their Create Tomorrow podcast to discuss what’s next for biomaterials and what brands can do to work collaboratively with startups in this field. “It’s a replacement for leather, but it doesn’t feel exactly like leather and it doesn’t behave exactly like leather. These materials are really new and can help us design products differently and we need to approach them that way.”

Press
Stories

These textiles were grown by bacteria

Fast Company, April 2023
Modern Synthesis has developed a novel way to create textiles from a microbe, and the resulting material could be sold to brands as a replacement for synthetic fabrics. “It’s naturally transparent, and it almost looks like a nylon or technical synthetic fabric,” Jen Keane says. “But the feel is much more natural. And it’s adaptable in terms of its hand feel.” It can be more flexible, for example, or thicker…

Press
Stories

Using bacteria to create biomaterial fabric

Dezeen, April 2023
“Our process is quite unique,” Modern Synthesis founder Jen Keane told Dezeen. “We take waste feedstocks – this could be fruit waste or other agricultural waste – and the bacteria naturally produce nanocellulose.” One of the textile’s main advantages, according to Keane, is that nanocellulose fibers – which are very small and lightweight – are 8x stronger than steel and stiffer than Kevlar.

Press

Modern Synthesis raises $4.1 million

AgFunder News, July 2022
UK-based biomaterials startup Modern Synthesis has raised $4.1 million in seed funding to support its microbial textile platform that aims to make the fashion industry more sustainable. Investors in the round include AgFunder, Collaborative Fund, Acequia Capital, Petri Bio, Ponderosa Ventures, Possible Ventures, IMO Ventures, Taihill Venture, and Parley for the Oceans, amongst others.

Press
Stories

10 ways London is leading the UK on sustainability

Evening Standard, April 2023

The fashion industry may be more polluting than air travel, but London designers are putting their best foot forward on sustainability. At its new facility, Modern Synthesis has come up with a game-changing biomaterial derived from fermentation. Founded by an ex-Adidas designer, the company raised £5m from major fashion players including Pierre Denis, former CEO of Jimmy Choo.

Research

Cellulose shoes made by bacteria

Nature Biotechnology, August 2022
Modern Synthesis’ goal is to produce a new class of material, a composite material that will replace animal-and petrochemical-made sneakers with a biodegradable, yet durable, alternative. The shoe’s upper is made by bacteria that naturally produce nanocellulose (Komagataeibacter rhaeticus). They can be genetically engineered to self-dye by producing melanin for color.

Awards and Supporters

Download media kit here (or contact press@modernsynthesis.com)

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