Startup Pembient Uses 3D Bioprinting to Make Rhino Ivory Without Killing Rhinos

When talking about 3D bioprinting, images of laboratories where blood vessels, human bones and even organs are being grown in futuristic machines are almost immediately conjured up. But one San Francisco-based startup called Pembientis taking this groundbreaking technology into a different, but equally important, direction.

They have developed a way of 3D printing actual rhino horns without harming these endangered animals. Hopefully, this can become a viable and environmentally-friendly alternative to a black market poaching trade that has already driven the Western Black Rhinoceros into extinction and has reduced the Northern White Rhinoceros to just five animals.

While it seems to be a bit far away from our comfortable 3D printing beds, the fact of the matter is that poaching is driving these gorgeous animals to extinction at lighting speeds. While the rhinos themselves are left to rot, the horns of the rhinos are used for classy ivory accessories in the Middle East and in traditional medicines in the Far East. The Rhinos are just one part of a gigantic illegal wildlife trade worth $20 billion annually.

But fortunately Pembient has a solution, as co-founder Matthew Markus told reporters. Originally a software engineer, he became convinced that something had to be done to save the rhino in 2006. Together with genetic engineer George Bonaci he founded Pembient, which is now capable of 3D printing rhino horns replicas that are genetically and aesthetically identical to rhino horns, but have nothing else to do with these majestic and endangered animals themselves. … (read more)