Spidey Tek was founded in 2015 and intends to mass produce their fermented spider silk for use in materials in medical, automotive, cosmetic, and apparel industries, among others. In April 2018, Spidey Tek and Utah State University signed an exclusive licensing agreement to produce and commercialize their spider silk proteins and related technologies. Randy Lewis, Ph.D. leads spider silk research at Utah State University and is the Chief Science Officer at Spidey Tek. Spidey Tek CEO Roberto Velozzi has a wealth of experience in material science and design. The team has already produced a glue using spider silk and intends to release glues and adhesives among its first products under the trade names Spidey, Spidey Tek and ARACHNO.
Spidey Tek produces and harvests large quantities of spider silk protein using precision fermentation. Spidey Tek is able to vary the properties of spider silk produced in this way by using different gene combinations. The company anticipates that their material can therefore be used in a wide variety of applications.
Spidey Tek presents the graphic below on their website, showing the simplified process of creating spider silk protein via precision fermentation. The DNA for spider silk protein is inserted into bacteria. The modified bacteria are placed in the bioreactor with growth medium and produce the spider silk protein. These proteins are collected after growth and processed into a powder. This powder can be mixed with Spidey Tek’s proprietary solution to bind it into fibers. The spider silk fibers can then be spun into threads. The powder can also be mixed with a variety of materials and solutions depending on desired end products.
The production of silk using silkworms is extremely water intensive and involves considerable biological waste products. It is likely that precision fermented spider silk would have much less impact on the environment, especially in terms of water, chemical, and land use. This technology would also receive high marks for animal welfare.
Spidey Tek’s spider silk fibers produced via precision fermentation are virtually identical to silk fibers produced by spiders. Precision fermented spider silk fibers will likely have similar or even identical sensory and tactile properties.
Spidey Tek proposes using their spider silk fibers to replace carbon fiber, plastics, and even Kevlar. The company also proposes mixing their spider silk powder with poly-chemicals and resins for use in 3D printing. It seems likely that fibers can be woven into fabrics for garments and accessories, but no examples currently exist.