July 28, 2015 MBI
July 28, 2015

Local Michigan Biotech Firm Helps Take Engineered Silk to the Next, Wearable Level

Bolt Threads to begin commercial production of Engineered Silk to create wearable textiles developed in collaboration with MBI, a not-for-profit hub affiliated with Michigan State University


LANSING, Mich. — On the south side of Michigan State University’s campus, tucked amidst lush green foliage, stands MBI (Michigan Biotechnology Institute). Established in 1981, this biotechnology accelerator has quietly wrestled with some of the globe’s most pressing sustainability challenges. A mission-inspired, market-driven 501(c)(3) focused on biobased innovations, MBI engages with universities, research institutions, start-up companies, and corporations to develop sustainable fuels, chemicals, food, feed—and, now, spider silk.

Bolt Threads, an innovator based in Emeryville, California, is revolutionizing the way we look at this elusive material—and it will be the first to take biobased Engineered Silk technology to commercial scale. Bolt Threads’ leap forward with this proprietary technology to create Engineered Silk fibers is an epiphany for the textile and garment industries. The company’s goal is to design processes that minimize the environmental footprint while creating a superior product.

MBI’s team couldn’t be more pleased to be working with Bolt Threads on this revolutionary technology,” said Dr. James Wynn, MBI’s director of biobased technology derisking. “At MBI, our mission is to help promising technologies, such as Bolt Threads’ Engineered Silk, make the most efficient transition from the lab to commercial production.”

Until today, commercial silk production has been limited to either silk worms or extremely small scale engineered silk production, where the painstaking efforts taken to amass any amount of silk were far too labor intensive with little pay-off. Bolt Threads is the first company to produce Engineered Silk fibers made from proteins found in nature with the ability to scale commercially. Additionally, Bolt Threads’ fibers can be programmed to be as soft, durable and malleable as needed.

“By accessing MBI’s expertise in process control and scale-up, Bolt Threads was able to develop a more robust and scalable production process capable of supplying large quantities of Engineered Silk,” said Wynn.


“The work that we are doing with MBI is key to the development, scale-up and demonstration-scale production of our Engineered Silk for use in fibers and textiles,” said Jason Ryder, Bolt Threads vice president of manufacturing. “Our collaboration with MBI validates the robustness and transferability of our process, which paves the way for transferring and developing in future commercial-scale facilities.”

At the time of this release, Bolt Threads is planning to have products in the market by 2016.


About MBI and Bolt Threads


MBI (Michigan Biotechnology Institute) is both a premier multidisciplinary center sought out by industry partners for unique derisking capabilities—and a mission-inspired 501(c)(3) not-for-profit that collaboratively accelerates the commercialization of biobased technologies. MBI is known for pioneering derisking, a process that quickly and cost-effectively fails flawed technologies while accelerating viable ones through a stage-gated innovation process. Lansing, Michigan-based MBI engages with universities, research institutions and corporations to develop sustainable fuels, chemicals, food and feed. Collaborators have included DuPont, Genomatica and Novozymes. MBI has also worked with Michigan State University and Cargill to develop PLA, the first biodegradable polymer in global use. Technologies developed at MBI are recognized and trusted worldwide. Learn more at www.www.mbi.org.

Bolt Threads The material world is about to get a whole new material. Bolt Threads is creating the next generation of performance fibers and fabrics using proprietary breakthroughs in industrial biotechnology. Working at the molecular level, Bolt Threads will transform the textiles market, turning renewable raw materials into products with outstanding properties that meet specific consumer needs. Bolt Threads is backed by Foundation Capital, Formation 8, and Founders Fund, and is based in Emeryville, California.