Production Optimization of E. Coli Fermented Synthetic Spider Silk for Commercial Viability

A. Edlund, R. Lewis, J. Jones, J. Quinn
Utah State University,
United States

Keywords: spider silk, synthetic, commercial viability, economic analysis, E. coli


While spider silk has been known for its impressive physical properties including strength to weight ratio, biocompatibility, elasticity and toughness, the commercial production has been limited. The ability to manufacture synthetic spider silk on an industrial scale has only recently become viable through transgenic E. coli. Recent advances in the spider silk protein expression and refinement have facilitated the development and application of many spider silk derivatives. The commercial viability of the production and integration of synthetic spider silk into marketable products has yet to be fully explored. Research efforts have been made to understand the current economic viability, focus experimental work and drive toward commercialization. Modular engineering system models, validated with experimental data, were generated and leveraged to perform a techno-economic analysis (TEA). Results for several industrially scaled production scenarios, based on laboratory inputs and outputs, indicate a price range from $38 kg-1 to $127 kg-1. With additional optimization of genetics and fermentation a minimum sale price of $4.69 kg-1 seems feasible. From this analysis it is evident that spider silk has the potential to be economical and become an integral part of composites, textiles, fabrics, adhesives, and many other products requiring high strength and toughness. The evaluation of multiple production scenarios based of protein generation through transgenic E. coli is evaluated. Results from modeling work highlight key areas for reducing cost and moving toward increased commercial viability.