Silken promises

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Science  20 Oct 2017:
Vol. 358, Issue 6361, pp. 293-294
DOI: 10.1126/science.358.6361.293

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A half-dozen biotech startups have raised more than $125 million in recent years to produce spider silk fibers, hoping to make high-strength, flexible textiles that are tough enough to stop bullets, yet flexible and breathable enough to be comfortable. They've succeed in transferring spider silk genes to numerous organisms, including bacteria, yeasts, silkworms, and even goats. They've produced enough fiber to turn out prototype products, such as lightweight running shoes, futuristic car seats, and stylish ties. But so far, these startups have struggled to produce the mass quantities of materials needed to support large commercial markets. That may soon change. One California company says it is now ready to manufacture ton-scale quantities of spider silk threads and has inked a deal with a fashion expert to turn out a new line of clothing beginning next year. Another company says it is closing in on a deal to farm silkworms in Asia that are genetically engineered to produce spider silk. So a long-dreamed of goal of producing spider silk garments may finally be nearing fulfilment.