Rensselaer County Industrial Development Agency awards funding to Tech Valley Center of Gravity to support capital equipment for biotech startup, Uncaged Innovations


(July 1, 2021) Troy, NY – Tech Valley Center of Gravity (TVCoG) announced today that they were awarded funding from the Rensselaer County Industrial Development Agency (IDA) to support specialized capital equipment purchases to assist Uncaged Innovations, a biotech company reimagining leather, with prototyping development in anticipation of their next major milestone in securing their second round of venture capital funding.

Uncaged Innovations, based in the Center of Gravity, a membership-based makerspace and manufacturing incubator, is a biotech company utilizing 3D bio-printing to replicate the biological composition and complex texture of exotic skin. Uncaged has recently hired three staff, and co-founders Dr. Pankaj Karande (CSO) and Stephanie Downs (CEO) anticipate their seed raise to support the hiring of 8-10 additional people before the end of 2022 and the expansion of their facility in Troy.

The funding from the IDA supports the purchase of a mechanical tensile tester and a 3D bio-printer, to be utilized both by Uncaged Innovations and other business members of Tech Valley Center of Gravity. The tensile tester will be used to test material samples for durability to identify feedstocks that have similar tensile properties as leather. The addition of the tensile tester in-house at TVCOG will enable product development businesses to obtain and chart specific data points that will speed up and improve prototyping development. 

Transformational Technology

Over 2.5 million crocodiles, alligators, pythons and other exotic animals are slaughtered annually for the fashion industry, and an estimated one billion additional animals are used as food in the raising of these carnivores. The exotic skins industry is plagued with issues including environmental damage through toxic tanning chemicals, significant waste, illegal smuggling, human rights violations, animal welfare, and potential viral outbreaks from wild animal confinement. Public awareness of the issues surrounding animal material production has put significant pressure on the fashion industry. Well-known fashion brands have banned exotic skins entirely from their product lines. The fashion industry is aggressively looking for sustainable solutions to address the issues they are facing and Uncaged Innovations seeks to offer an answer by providing a true replica of these high-quality hides while removing risks in the supply chain and making production more humane and sustainable.

Mr. Robert Pasinella, Executive Director, Rensselaer County Industrial Development Agency, stated “Rensselaer County has a thriving tech and innovation ecosystem that we actively invest in through supporting these types of collaborative partnerships. The startup and product development community at the Tech Valley Center of Gravity, coupled with access to financial resources, equipment and mentorship, as well as the enterprising faculty of our university community draws dynamic companies like Uncaged Innovations to Rensselaer County. “

“Bringing together the right partners and funding resources, critical equipment needs, and supporting expedited prototype development is how the Center of Gravity is designed to function and the partnership of Rensselaer County has been pivotal to our successes since our inception in 2013.” said Cheryl Kennedy, Executive Director, Tech Valley Center of Gravity,  “TVCoG’s 16-v incubator has the ability to engage and advance diverse partnerships between product tech companies and the regional ecosystem. Working with and observing Uncaged as they have brought international partners, talented staff, and investment from outside of the state, shows that our collective work in the Region is being fully realized.”

Ms. Stephanie Downs, Chief Executive Officer, Uncaged Innovations, formerly a corporate social responsibility consultant advising companies on alternatives to animal materials and a serial entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience founding and building businesses said, “the support from the Rensselaer County IDA to bring in this equipment is the most critical piece in developing our prototype, enabling us to advance our project to the next round of funding and continue to bring in the best talent to New York State for our project. We have been working with the Center of Gravity team in their facility since our founding in the summer of 2020, during the pandemic. At every turn the Center of Gravity, the Rensselaer County IDA, and the Bryce Companies have supported our work to help ensure our success even through these unprecedented times.