Could a synthetically produced imitation of rhino horn undermine the black market in poached horn, and help save the rhino? That’s the intriguing proposition behind Pembient, a San Francisco-based biotech start-up, which plans to bio-engineer a faux rhino horn that’s genetically indistinguishable from the real thing, and sell it to Asian consumers at prices below the black market price for natural horn. We spoke to Pembient co-founder and CEO Matthew Markus about these plans:
What prompted your interest in bioengineering a synthetic version of rhino horn?
Rhino poaching seems to come in waves, with a previous crisis ebbing in the early 1990s. Around that time, I was studying computer science and happened to read about the issue. I thought it would be neat if rhino horn could be copied like software. Unfortunately, that was an impossible dream at the time.
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