Kraig Biocraft Laboratories, developer of spider silk based fibres, has developed a strain of genetically engineered silkworms which produces fibres that have the physical properties more suited for use in protective textiles. The development has come under the company’s contract with the US Army. The company will scale up the production of new fibres.
Tentatively called Dragon Silk 2.0, this new strain is the next evolution in the development of protective fibres, built upon the company’s existing Dragon Silk, and is a further example of the company’s ability to adapt and tailor the properties of its recombinant spider silk materials to meet end market performance requirements. Through the use of its fibre performance testing capabilities, paired with a select breeding programme, the company created a strain that is stronger, yet less elastic, than the original Dragon Silk.
Specifically created in response to input from the Army, based on requirements for antiballistic applications, this new strain of recombinant spider silk silk- worms is the second phase of the company’s development agreement with the Army. Kraig Labs delivered shootpack panels to the Army, earlier this summer, made of its original Dragon Silk material and those panels are awaiting testing. “When the Army chose to award the second phase of this project we knew that we were given a great opportunity to prove the power of our technology and our approach using silkworms,” said COO, Jon Rice. “Today we’re thrilled to announce that our work was a success and that we now have a line of silkworms that produce a recombinant spider silk better matched for the demands of protective textile applications. We expect this new strain will play a critical role in our expansion and commercialisation of spider silk far beyond the market for bullet proof vests.”
Kraig Biocraft Laboratories Begins Scale Up Of Second Generation Dragon Silk
Consistent with the Company’s history of creating performance driven recombinant spider silk, this new material was specially designed at Kraig Labs’ Michigan research headquarters for application in protective textiles, where increased strength and decreased flexibility are expected to provide improved protection.
Scale up of Dragon Silk 2.0 is well underway, with the production team already raising tens of thousands of the new transgenic silkworms at the Company’s US based pilot production facility. Over the next 30 days, Kraig Labs anticipates scaling up production volumes of this new silkworm strain into the millions, as it prepares to create the first silk threads and fabrics made of this next generation recombinant spider silk.
Further, the Company is laying the groundwork to partner with experts in multicomponent thread design and spinning, to develop new specialty threads blending the performance spider silk with other traditional materials. This work is expected to develop threads and fabrics focused specifically on products for the perfor- mance wear and other closely linked market segments.
“The ability to rapidly scale up this newly announced material, from initial testing to pilot scale production, is a major differentiator in our approach, which utilizes silkworms and the existing global silk infrastructure,” said COO, Jon Rice. “The current global infrastructure, equipment and skilled labor, is able to produce more than 150,000 metric tons of conventional silk per year. Our recombinant spider silk silkworm technology is a direct drop-in replacement for traditional silkworms and allows us to move quickly, with minimal investment, to bring new products to market.”
Future scale up of Dragon Silk 2.0, as well as the Company’s other lines of recombinant spider silk silkworms, is expected to be transferred to the Company’s subsidiary Prodigy Textiles and its operations in Vietnam, while the Company’s US facility remains focused on the development of next generation materials.