Licensing Deal Reached with UCSF

Agreement paves the way to harness cutting-edge advances in synthetic biology to build leather

San Francisco, CA
September 6, 2017
For Immediate Release

Provenance Biofabrics, Inc., a company building leather by harnessing recent advances in synthetic biology and bioengineering, announced this month that has it has partnered with UC San Francisco on an exclusive license of technologies developed in the Gartner Laboratory.

Under the agreement, Provenance Biofabrics will further develop the technology and commercialize a leather equivalent for the textile industry. UCSF will receive undisclosed royalty and milestone payments.

Provenance is building leather by sculpting collagen, the primary protein component of skin, using principles of directed self-assembly pioneered in the Gartner Lab. Dr. Zev Gartner, a co-founder of Provenance Biofabrics, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry at UCSF and co-director of the Center for Cellular Construction. His research aims to identify new strategies to build tissues by harnessing the self-organizing properties of cells and cell-derived materials.

“I’m excited to partner with Provenance in their quest to develop a replacement leather with a look and feel that exceeds what can be derived from animal hides. If successful, their products will have an enormous positive impact on the fashion industry and the environment,” commented Dr. Gartner. 

Michalyn Andrews, CEO of Provenance Biofabrics notes, “We are thrilled to have executed this agreement with UCSF and apply Zev’s research to this new industry. The technology lends a new precision to building tissue and the potential to create a true leather equivalent with all the characteristics of high quality leather.”

She continued, “Part of what gives leather its unique beauty and texture derives from the mechanics of animal development.  Recent advances in bioengineering have provided important clues for recreating these textures in the lab.”

Animal agriculture, including the production of meat and leather, is a top contributor to anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Provenance Biofabrics is dedicated to pushing sustainability by building biodegradable animal materials with no animals harmed in the process.

“Even with our growing awareness of animal agriculture’s role in global warming, our consumption of animal products is among the hardest of shifts for us to make culturally. Our goal at Provenance is to offer higher quality and more innovative alternatives as a solution. We love leather and would like to see the emotional connection to our oldest material maintained for generations to come by rebuilding it – retaining all of its unique properties – but doing so in a more sustainable manner,” notes Ms. Andrews.

The licensed technology has applications that may extend the sculpting of leather to exotic hides such as alligator and crocodile. “In the end, the material properties of all of these hides derive from developmental programs, specific to each organism, that sculpt collagen into unique forms and textures. We ultimately will aim to recreate these material properties under controlled conditions in the lab,” said Dr. Gartner.

By furthering these technologies, Provenance aims to eradicate many constraints inherent in developing leather products with traditional hides. Among these constraints are size of hides and blemishes from animal rearing. Directing the precise assembly of collagen at the micro level promises the delivery of leather with new features that can be fully programmable.

“We are excited about what this can mean for the fashion industry. Having designers and scientists innovating together opens up a plethora of possibilities. We see this as a creative reinvigoration of the industry at large,” says Ms. Andrews.

This partnership was facilitated by the UCSF Office of Innovation, Technology & Alliances (ITA), which coordinates UCSF’s efforts in forging collaborations and licensing technologies that translate cutting-edge science on campus into products and therapies that directly benefit people worldwide.


Provenance Biofabrics, Inc. is a UCSF-spinout, synthetic biology startup focused on making a true leather equivalent – accomplished sustainably and with no animals harmed. The company is co-founded and led by CEO, Michalyn Andrews; Dr. Zev Gartner; and CBDO, Christian Ewton

©2019 Provenance Biofabrics