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Utah State shares spider silk research contract award

December 18th, 2015 / By: / Industry News

Utah State University has announced that it has been awarded a U.S. Army Small Business Innovation Research Phase II contract with Salt Lake City based Technology Holding LLC to continue research and development of spider silk manufacturing. The total contract award is $1 million and is managed through the Army Research Office. Under the terms of the SBIR contract, Utah State and Technology Holding will deliver to the Army multiple lengths of fiber made from synthetic spider silk for a variety of tests.

“One of the strongest materials known to man, spider silk has almost infinite applications including in the defense, medical and automotive industries. The challenge has always been developing ways in which to produce synthetic spider silk in quantities sufficient enough for mass manufacturing,” said Randy Lewis director of the USU Synthetic Bioproducts Center and Utah Science Technology and Research Professor of Biology. “Recently, working with Technology Holding, the USU Synthetic Bioproducts Center has been making great strides in developing processes and technologies to more efficiently produce and process synthetic spider silk, which triggered the SBIR contract from the Army.”

Technology Holding has developed a proprietary process for protein production that, when used with the USTAR Bioproducts Scale-Up Facility that opened earlier this year at Utah State, enables scientists and engineers to demonstrate the viability of commercial production.

Spider silk is stronger than Kevlar and more elastic than nylon, making it a product that has interested the industry seeking better solutions for products. Among the goals of the researchers is to address the use of fossil fuels for the production of materials such as nylon and the on foreign energy resources for raw material– issues that are limited in the production of synthetic spider silk.

Driven by today’s environmental, health and economic challenges, the goal of the center is to take advantage of recent bio-scientific advances to enable living organisms (single-cell organisms, plants, and animals) to transform raw materials into environmentally friendly products, such as low-cost therapeutics, antimicrobials, biomaterials and pharmaceuticals.