Japanese firms make jacket with synthetic protein textile


Japanese biotech venture Spiber Inc. and sports apparel maker Goldwin Inc. recently announced they would launch in December what they claim is the world's first outerwear jacket made with protein material produced via microbial fermentation. A limited number of ‘Moon Parka jackets’ will be available for sale under The North Face brand in Tokyo for $1,400. 

The surface layer of the jacket will use the pale gold-coloured nylon-like material. 

Research into synthetic spider silk for its unusual mix of strength and elasticity started over a decade ago. Spiber says it is now capable of producing transgenic proteins through microbial fermentation, a manufacturing process that does not rely on petroleum, a finite resource. 

Spiber believes the new biodegradable material named ‘brewed protein’ can offer a sustainable solution to the needs of the apparel industry to move away from petrochemical and animal-derived materials and the collaboration with Goldwin will help in that direction, according to a news agency report

Mass production of the jacket is unlikely before 2021 when Spiber's protein fermentation facility, currently under construction in Rayong, Thailand, is planned to start operation, Kazuhide Sekiyama, representative executive officer of Spiber said recently in Tokyo. 

The jacket's prototype made with its synthetic spider silk material QMONOS was unveiled in October 2015, and the launch of the product was planned for the following year. But things did not go according to schedule, due largely to the spider thread's characteristic of shrinking when it gets wet. 

Spiber then changed the course of development from its initial goal of simulating spider silk to creating a new protein material by utilizing enormous genetic data it decoded during its previous research. 

Spiber's proprietary technology enables the creation of a diverse range of protein materials, each with different features and forms, by modifying DNA sequences that code for its proteins, the company added. 




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