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Logan – Utah State University broke ground on a new building called the Bioproducts Scale-Up Facility. This facility seeks to maximize the research-to-commercialization potential of Utah Science Technology and Research professor Randy Lewis’s work on the creation of synthetic spider silk.
The 70,000-square-foot high bay facility will house large fermentation equipment allowing researchers to take the next step in producing large volumes of spider silk protein. The building is the result of the work currently being done by USU’s USTAR faculty and students in the Synthetic Biomanufacturing Institute.
“It’s a significant milestone for USU to have a new material like spider silk emerge from our research enterprise,” said Scott Hinton, director of the Synthetic Biomanufacturing Institute. “In this new facility, our faculty and students will have an opportunity to further explore, grow and develop this intriguing new material for a wide variety of commercial applications.”
Lewis and his team began its research and production of synthetic spider silk proteins in silk worms, alfalfa and transgenic goats. The group is now ready to move to commercial scale production of the proteins within fermentation tanks. Spider silk is stronger than Kevlar, more elastic than Nylon and has thermal conductivity properties comparable to copper. Applications for spider silk vary from fibers like strings, ropes and tire treads to medical scaffolding, coatings, sealants and 3D printing, liquid gels and cosmetics.
Araknitek, Inc., a USU spin-off company, was created to commercialize products that emerge from scientific investigations of synthetic spider silk proteins.
“We look forward to working with the innovative team at Araknitek as they make great strides in the commercialization of spider silk,” said Robert Behunin, Utah State’s vice president for advancement and commercialization. “The company has already secured licenses to a broad portfolio of intellectual property based on and related to synthetic spider silk technology. We look forward to seeing their growth.”
In its initial business development efforts Araknitek will provide bulk quantities of synthetic spider silk protein and access to proprietary production processes to its customers with licenses to make and sell market specific materials, devices or goods.