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Utah State will produce commercial quantities of spider silk

Industry News | February 20, 2015 | By:

Utah State officials have announce that the newly constructed Bioproducts Scale-Up Facility on the university’s Innovation Campus will enable synthetic spider silk to be produced in commercial quantities. Funding for the facility was provided by the Utah Science Technology and Research (USTAR) initiative.

“Within this new, state-of-the-art facility, Utah State will begin the process of producing synthetic spider silk and other biosynthetic materials in quantities that have not yet been achieved, which will enable commercial partners to take advantage of years of USU faculty research on new biomaterials that can be used for a wide variety of applications,” said H. Scott Hinton, director of the USTAR Synthetic Biomanufacturing Institute at Utah State. “This new USTAR Bioproducts Scale-Up Facility can provide large quantities of these new biosynthetic materials to companies for innovative bioproducts that range from medical devices to textiles.”

In addition to manufacturing large quantities of bioproducts for commercialization, the USTAR Bioproducts Scale-Up Facility has been designed to enable the optimization of upstream and downstream processes to enhance the production of bioproducts, including synthetic spider silk, produced by fermentation.

Stronger than Kevlar and more elastic than nylon, spider silk has potential uses in applications such as ligament and tendon repair, advanced coatings, high-tech clothing, time-release coatings and gels, parachutes, bioadhesives and airbags.

For large-scale fermentations, the facility houses two 500-liter fermenters, which have a variety of setup options and data collection resources that allow process optimization. A 125-liter fermentation system, which is also fully automated and sterilizable-in-place, is available to serve as a seed reactor. For cell and product recovery, several sizes of centrifuges are available. In addition, a chromatography system makes it possible to purify production quantities of spider silk proteins.

The USTAR Bioproducts Scale-Up Facility is part of Utah State University’s USTAR Synthetic Biomanufacturing Institute and provides an infrastructure that enhances research and commercialization opportunities. The Institute provides the framework necessary to strengthen the communication and coordination between university faculty, industry partners, research centers and the Bioproducts Production Laboratory.

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