Friday, July 05, 2002

Goat Udders + Hamster Kidneys = BioSteel

The pharmaceutical company Nexia Biotechnologies Inc. will soon start selling products made from “the Holy Grail of performance fibers” – spider silk. After decades of failure by everyone from the U.S. Army to DuPont Chemical, Nexia is introducing BioSteel, a fiber spun from spider silk proteins that have been generated in the milk of genetically engineered dairy goats. It seems efforts were made many years ago to “farm” spiders in the same way as silkworms, but they wouldn’t produce any silk until they had eaten all the other spider in their same enclosure, so those projects were scrapped.

Nexia hopes to use BioSteel for a wide array of applications, including in surgery and on the battlefield (and then, presumable, back in surgery again). Not only do they expect their new product to “find application in the wound closure industry,” they even think it can replace Kevlar in bulletproof vests and body armor. I’m sure there will be the usual bleatings of protest from animal rights and anti-biotechnology activists, but I doubt they’ll be able to slow down the commercialization of such an important discovery.

Forbes was on the ball back in February of 2001 with a story titled “Charlotte’s Goat” when they predicted that Nexia’s artificial silk would be no more than two years away.


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