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Partnership to bring insect silk to industrial mainstream

19 April, 2012

A partnership to develop products using insect silk will explore a range of industrial applications, with the aviation and marine industries in particular taking notice.

Bringing new insect silk products to the global market is the focus of a partnership announced recently by Australian research agency CSIRO and global life science industry supplier, Lonza.
Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and Lonza, have entered a joint development agreement to advance and market new insect silks for a broad range of medical and industrial applications.

Insect silk is potentially a key component in a wide range of new products and applications under development by the fast growing biotechnology manufacturing industry due to superior properties such as exceptional strength and toughness.

Potential uses include composite fibres for the aviation and marine industries and medical applications including wound repair, drug delivery, and repairing and replacing human tissues such as membranes, ligaments, blood vessels and cartilage.

CSIRO is bringing scientific discovery, biomedical and materials science expertise to the partnership, according to CSIRO Business Development and Commercialisation General Manager, Cameron Begley.

"CSIRO has identified a broad range of insect silks that could be produced sustainably and used for a wide range of industrial and medical applications," Begley said.

"We have found ways to convert the bee silk into a range of different forms, from micro-particles and sponges through to spun fibres that can lead to knitted and woven fabrics."
Lonza brings its biotechnology and life-science product and service expertise to the partnership and is already providing process development for the recombinant bee silk protein.

"Lonza is excited by the potential of insect silks as a relatively untapped route to sustainable and life enhancing products for our current markets and beyond, and it is encouraging to see such strong projects resulting from our Lonza Innovation for Future Technology initiative," Allison Haitz, Lonza’s Head of Global Innovation, said.

"Lonza has been very impressed with CSIRO’s research and development work. This is a world class combination with CSIRO’s research team developing new ways of processing silks and achieving continuous strong silk fibre production, and Lonza’s experience and capability in manufacturing to take that research to the marketplace and support the successful commercialisation."

CSIRO and Lonza are working closely to identify further commercial applications and partners for the new insect silk based products.

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