Bringing Synthetic Biology to Consumers, One Material at a Time | 7investing
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Bringing Synthetic Biology to Consumers, One Material at a Time

September 14, 2021 – By Samantha Bailey

We’ve all experienced it. That favorite pair of sneakers or trusty yoga mat, both of which have soaked up who-knows-what over the years, eventually begs for retirement. You probably toss these items into the trash and never think about them again. The same is true for clothing, furniture, and thousands of other items that get us through everyday life, although some can be donated for a useful second life.

Maybe “never think about them again” is a little too harsh. Consumers, especially younger consumers, are increasingly aware of the environmental footprint of these end-of-life decisions for the “stuff” they own. The generational shift in consumer behavior can certainly be counted as progress, but it’s important to consider an item’s full lifecycle. After all, an estimated 75% of the environmental impact for the items we own comes from the selection of raw materials used to manufacture them. That’s all baked in well before they end up in a landfill.

Companies are conscious of consumer attitudes about sustainability and eager to discover solutions, but they face significant challenges in finding reliable, high-quality sources of sustainable materials. We’ve all seen headlines about shoes made out of recycled water bottles, or car panels molded from seaweed, but these types of headline-grabbing “solutions” are impossible to scale, inject uncertainty into supply chains, and face considerable economic headwinds.

Enter privately-held Bolt Threads. The sustainable materials company is using synthetic biology to create reliable supply streams of high-quality materials for some of the world’s leading brands. The three publicly-disclosed material brands each solve specific problems in the select markets:

  • Microsilk: Spider silk made with genetically-engineered microbes for improved cost and scale. These natural fibers can replace synthetic polymers in various fabric applications. Read more.

  • B-silk Protein: Stumbled upon during the development of Microsilk, this ingredient can be added to cosmetic or personal care products to replace keratin (derived from animals) and silicone (a synthetic polymer). Read more.

  • Mylo: A mycelium material used to replace animal leather without compromising on performance or luxury. Global companies launching Mylo products soon include adidas, lululemon, and Stella McCartney. Read more.

7investing Lead Advisor Maxx Chatsko sat down with Bolt Threads CEO and co-founder Dan Widmaier to discuss the opportunities and challenges in sustainable materials and the importance of making synthetic biology real for consumers with visible technology.

Publicly-traded companies mentioned in this podcast include adidas, Allbirds, Ginkgo Bioworks, Kering, lululemon, Warby Parker, and Unilever.

7investing Lead Advisors and Dan Widmaier may have positions in the companies that are mentioned. This interview was originally recorded on September 9th, 2021 and was first published on September 14th, 2021.

 

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