Leonardo DiCaprio Invests In Startup That Will Build First Cell-Grown Leather Plant

VitroLabs Inc, a biotech-focused startup leading the development of a new scientific process to produce the world’s first cell-cultured animal leather, announced that it has closed its Series A funding round, raising $46 million and with Leonardo DiCaprio as one of the investor. The money, according to the company, will be used to scale production to a pilot plant.

The round was led by Agronomics, while other investors besides the Hollywood star included BESTSELLER’s Invest FWD, global luxury group Kering, Khosla Ventures, New Agrarian and Regeneration VC. In addition, Kering continues its partnership with VitroLabs to provide support for product quality testing, tanning and finishing.

VitroLAbs said its CEO, Ingvar Helgason, co-founded the company with a mission to create the highest quality materials that meet the uncompromising standards of the luxury industry while dramatically reducing environmental impact and promoting animal welfare.

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Leonardo DiCaprio invests in startup that will build the first cell-grown leather plant

“At a time when environmental stewardship is more important than ever, biotech companies have an opportunity to lead the way in changing the way we produce materials and build supply chains, working hand in hand with artisans, who are the cornerstone of the $400 billion leather goods industry,” Helgason said. “By launching the first production of cultured leather, we will reach an important milestone in fulfilling our mission to lead the change towards a more sustainable future.”

​“At Kering, a pillar of our sustainability roadmap is dedicated to sustainable innovation and the active search for alternative materials that can reduce our long-term environmental impact is part of the solutions we have been exploring for years. We believe that innovation is key to addressing the sustainability challenges facing the luxury industry, which is why we are very interested in the potential of biomaterials such as cultured leather,” said Marie-Claire Daveu, Director of Sustainability and Affairs. Kering Institutionals.

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Helgason added that “There has been an explosion of companies that are developing alternative materials to leather. Yet at VitroLabs, our cultured animal leather retains the biological characteristics that industry, artisans, and consumers know and love about leather, while removing the most environmentally and ethically damaging aspects of the leather manufacturing process. associated with its supply”.

Headquartered in Milpitas, California, VitroLabs is the startup best positioned to take cultured leather to scale. Since 2016, the company has pioneered cutting-edge material manufactured by using advanced tissue engineering processes to create cell-cultured animal leather from just a few animal cells.

The company has made significant advances in product quality through the optimization of cell expansion processes and the patented design of a novel large-scale tissue culturer. Last fall, VitroLabs moved into its new 4,200-square-meter facility, designed for pilot production and lab space as the company moves from bench to commercial.

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The Series A funds will be used to accelerate commercialization, with the expansion of the scientific, manufacturing and business development teams. “VitroLabs’ scalable engineering platform provides high-quality, sustainable leather,” said Jim Mellon of Agronomics. “We are delighted to continue our support for VitroLabs, the leading luxury cultured leather company, which is ready to begin commercialization.”

Startup co-founder and stem cell scientist Dusko Ilic said, “Over the past two years, we have been focused on driving our tissue engineering platform to increase efficiency and optimize tissue production to get the look, feel, feel and performance of traditional leather at scale. With several major advances in the areas of bioreactor design, bioprocess and facility design, and cell culture development, we are now on the path to a scalable process that delivers the desired superior qualities, forging a path toward the ultimate goal of industrialization.”

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