Pembient was founded in 2015 by Matthew Markus and George Bonaci and is located in Seattle, Washington. Pembient is a biotechnology company producing bio-fabricated horn using DNA and 3D printed keratin. Pembient's original goal was to combat wildlife poaching by producing horn and other animal parts to be used for medicinal purposes at significantly less cost than anything produced through illegal wildlife trade - a $20 billion black market.
Pembient discovered a greater market size when they realized that carved rhino horn was a significant factor in increased poaching demand; rather than just medicinal use. Rhino horn is unique in that is is solid; unlike the horns of cows and elephants whose horns are hollow. Rhino horn provides a good carving medium as it can be made into large solid objects. As there is only an estimated 20,000 rhinos left in the world, the cost for their horn is exponential - approximately $60,000 per kilogram. Pembient plans to use modern technology to manufacture horn cylinders and sell them at a fraction of the cost which in turn will undermine poachers and put an end to rhino poaching. These can be sold to artisans, designers, carvers and other manufacturers.
Pembient claims that horn is a bioplastic and if it can be produced in abundance it can replace petroleum plastic as a material. Pembient's CEO envisions a future with everyday products made from bio-degradable horn.
Rhino horn is made of keratin, the same family of protein found in hair, skin, nails, and hooves. In order to develop a prototype quickly, Pembient’s initial rhino horn prototypes were developed using cellular agriculture. The prototypes were reformulated from sheep’s wool because wool also contains keratin. However, they realized that the horn's material properties - for example, texture, was not an exact replicate of real rhino horn and would be difficult to carve. Pembient decided to move towards a tissue-engineering approach; growing the horn rather than printing it. The group wants to persuade stem cells from a rhino or other creature to develop into keratinocytes, which they would then embed onto a scaffold.
Pembient is exploring the best technology to bio-fabricate horn.
Synthetic rhinoceros horn analogues
Matthew Markus, George Bonaci
October 5, 2017
A PembiCoin is a blockchain-based token that allows its holder to take delivery of one gram of biofabricated horn in the year 2022
IndieBio is a four month business accelerator program which awards $50,000 and mentors biotech start-up companies using synthetic biology.
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Pete Kowalczyk, for CNN
How Technology May Help Save the Rhino From Extinction
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Pembient: rhino horns without poaching
Startup Stories: Pembient
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Documentaries, videos and podcasts
3D Printing Rhino Horns Can Stop Poaching in Africa
August 13, 2015
A Seattle Startup's Plan To Curb Rhino Poaching With Bioengineering
February 4, 2015
Artificial rhino horn will stamp out poaching trade, says biologist | CBC Radio
October 7, 2016
E596: Matthew Markus’ Pembient is creating synthetic rhino horns to disrupt an illegal $750m trade and halt the acceleration of rhinoceros endangerment | This Week In Startups
November 17, 2015
Envision a World Without Wildlife Poaching ... Uber Disrupts Transportation| Airbnb Disrupts Hotels| Amazon Disrupts Food | Pembient Disrupts Wildlife Poaching! - with Matthew Markus - RedZone
January 5, 2018
Stossel: Save the Rhinos!
July 20, 2017
- 3D printingAdditive process used to make a three-dimensional object
- KeratinKeratin is a protein that makes up skin, hair and nails and is also found in internal organs and glands.
- DNAMolecule that encodes the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms and many viruses.
- PoachingIllegal taking of wild plants or animals