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Kraig Labs opens new Spider Silk production facility in Vietnam

Spider silk has been used for various applications from textiles to biomedicine for its remarkable strength, biocompatibility, etc. However, producing spider silk at an industrial scale has been a major challenge due to the difficulties of farming spiders and replicating their complex spinning process. To overcome this challenge, Kraig Biocraft Laboratories (Kraig Labs), a US-based biotechnology company, has developed a novel method of producing recombinant spider silk, by genetically engineered silkworms to produce spider silk proteins. The company has recently opened a new production facility in Lam Dong Province, the heart of Vietnam’s booming silk economy, where it plans to scale up its spider silk production and commercialization in this year’s spring. This new facility will serve as an operation center for the company’s expanded spider silk production project of fibers, yarns, and fabrics.

Figure: Producing spider silk by Kraig Biocraft laboratories source: Texintel

Securing this new facility is happening in parallel with the Company’s recently announced MOU with the Vietnam Sericulture Association (“VSA”) and Lam Dong Agro-Forestry Research and Experiment Center (“LAREC”). Kraig Labs expects this center will serve as a central location for collaboration with the VSA and LAREC to enhance sericulture in Vietnam. This agreement resulted from years of effort that culminated in a highly productive working session between Kraig Labs management, VSA, LAREC, various VSA members, and the company’s Vietnam subsidiary Prodigy Textiles. Under the supervision of this MoU, the company will cooperate with these key agencies to improve and expand silk production in Vietnam. As the facility is located in the center of Vietnam’s largest silk-producing region, it provides access to fresh mulberry, skilled sericulture staffing, and cocoon reeling facilities. The Company anticipates this facility will also serve as the distribution and collection hub for the resulting recombinant spider silk fibers, yarns, and fabrics.

“We have been working with various governmental ministries, agencies, and departments for an extended period of time in order to demonstrate our silk production technology and to tailor that technology to the local environment,” said Company founder and CEO, Kim K. Thompson. “The MOU, and the collaboration it represents, opens up new opportunities for advanced fiber commercialization. Our goal now is to meet the challenge of expanding spider silk production to commercial scale in 2024.”

Figure: Kraig Labs plans to launch a first-ever clothing line made of spider silk Source: EcoTextiles

In addition to this pivotal partnership with the VSA and the LAREC, Kraig Labs also reports that it is working aggressively to expand its production capacities and footprint in the first quarter of 2024. The Company plans to achieve metric-ton spider silk production later this year.

This enhanced silkworm hybridization, which the company calls BAM 1, is the result of careful selective breeding to maximize both robustness and the proportion of usable silk per cocoon. Based on initial evaluations and genetic comparisons, the company believes this new two-strain hybrid is the most efficient spider silk production system ever produced.

The final cocoons were inspected for cocoon size and silk yield. The development of this new hybrid involved careful selective crossing of the company’s Dragon SilkTM strain with a number of commercially produced pure silkworm strains. After completing the breeding and stabilizing of silk traits in commercial lines, a series of cross-mattings were conducted to test the results of the various crossings. This new hybrid produces more usable silk per cocoon than previous hybrid pairings and is expected to make the transition from development into operations in the first and second quarters of 2024.

“We are prepared for 2024 to be a breakthrough year for the commercialization of spider silk. Positioning our operations in the heart of Vietnam’s silk manufacturing center is a significant element of that growth,” said the CEO, Kim Thompson. “Our team is now preparing for the spring production trials and the launch of our new BAM 1 hybrid. We expect to have this new facility online to support these exciting milestones and the commercialization of our cost-effective, eco-friendly spider silk.”

He also added, “This new hybrid will play a key role in our production trials. Our team is currently scaling up production of the two parental lines used to create this hybrid. One of those parental lines is already homozygous for the spider silk gene. The next milestone, which we believe is imminent, will be to establish homozygosity with the second parental strain.” “The BAM 1 recombinant spider silk hybrid will be the central player in Kraig Labs’ spring production trials.”

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