EMERYVILLE — Clothing and spiders go all the way back to Greek mythology, in which the arrogant weaver Arachne is turned into a spider by the goddess Athena after challenging her to a weaving competition.
But today, technology has taken over the role of both spider and weaver at Emeryville-based Bolt Threads, which produces proteins that are fermented and then spun into fibers that can be used in modern clothing.
Co-founded by Dan Widmaier and David Breslauer in 2009, venture-backed Bolt Threads emerged last year with its own products — including a limited edition $314 necktie — and partnerships with luxury fashion designers like Stella McCartney and environmentally-minded clothing companies like Patagonia. Bolt last year purchased New York City-based outdoors company Best Made Company and closed a $123 million round of Series D funding.
We sat down in the lab with Breslauer, who also serves as chief science officer, to talk about Bolt’s process, and its past, present and future. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: Can you walk through what it takes to make your spider silk?
A: When it comes to actually making fibers, the process itself is quite long. We take DNA sequences from nature, which we know create fibers that we see in spider webs or in silkworms. And then we take those sequences and we take them in a proprietary yeast that we brew up like beer. Those yeasts make the protein, and we purify it and extract it into threads. The extraction works with a shower head where a bunch of liquid jets come out and we solidify them through another proprietary process.
Q: So no spiders were used.
A: No spiders involved whatsoever. There was a time when there were spiders, and I studied their silk webs to get a better understanding. But we have no bugs, no insects, no spiders, no silkworms here. All the protein is designed on a computer. We have a DNA sequence and we can add properties to modify it however we want.
Q: I believe your fibers are recyclable too. Are there limits to what you can do with your fibers?
A: In the apparel market, the end is only in your imagination. Because we can design these proteins from scratch, we can add all sorts of functionalities into them, some of which might not be found in nature otherwise. We can turn silk into something that can be machine …
Source:: East Bay – Lifestyle