3rd PIC 2016 Spiber, Japan: New-generation biomaterial development

Spiber, Japan: New-generation biomaterial development

To establish a new category of sustainable, high-performance manufacturing materials by enabling the industrial production of synthetic spider silk and other artificial protein polymers

About the product

Spiber’s synthetic protein materials are tailor designed at the molecular level, using DNA as a blueprint to code for specific sequences of amino acids that make up variants of the protein polymers. This enables design of materials with a wide range of unique physical properties, for use in industries such as apparel, automotive and medical devices. These sustainable materials are produced without petroleum through fermentation of agricultural produce such as sugars.

About the market

Market description

Spiber is initially targeting the apparel textiles market, which is mostly comprised of petrochemical synthetic fibers (such as polyester, nylon and acrylic) and cellulosic fibers (such as cotton and rayon) produced at low cost. Conventional animal based protein fibers (such as wool and silk) provide superior quality and comfort in textiles, however they account for less than 2% of the global fiber market due to relatively high costs and limited supply capacity.

Market figures

The total demand of the global fiber market was roughly 86 million tons in 2014, with a CAGR of approx. 4% since 1995. This market growth has been driven primarily by petrochemical synthetic fibers (CAGR ~ 7%,) while animal based protein fibers including wool and silk have remained at low growth (CAGR ~ 1%) during the same period. Spiber’s technology enables large scale production of high-quality synthetic protein fibers at competitive costs, creating an opportunity to generate a new market of over 1 million tons by 2035.

Questions to Kenji Higashi, Director of Business Development

What are your venture’s key achievements to date?

Spiber has created a platform technology combining capabilities in molecular biology, fermentation, and polymers science to enable large-scale production of a wide range of protein polymer materials. Spiber has partnered with industry leaders for development of product applications of its materials, and has created prototypes including the “MOON PARKA™” announced in 2015 by The North Face apparel brand and the “Kinetic Seat Concept” announced in 2016 by the Lexus car brand.

What are you plans for future development?

Spiber is preparing to commence its first commercial scale production facilities which will produce high-performance synthetic protein fibers at costs that are competitive with conventional natural protein-based fibers. The initial applications of these materials will be in the field of outdoor apparel textiles in collaboration with The North Face brand.
Spiber is also developing variants of its protein polymers to be released subsequently, designed for use in automotive and medical applications.

What is your competitive environment?

Spiber is the pioneer and global leader of the synthetic protein materials industry, and is the only company that has demonstrated capabilities to produce synthetic proteins fibers in an industrial scale. Several competing startups have emerged in recent years in the U.S. and in Europe, who are engaging in research of similar technologies, however none have demonstrated success. Spiber is taking advantage of its lead to expand its portfolio of intellectual property rights, fortifying its position against potential future competition.