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USU Innovation Campus Breaks Ground on Bioproducts Scale-Up Facility

Thursday, Oct. 03, 2013

officials at USU Bioproducts Scale-Up Facility groundbreaking

Ground was broken for a new building located in the heart of Innovation Campus, the Bioproducts Scale-Up Facility. (left to right) Jeff Woodbury, Randy Lewis, Travis Lish, Robert Behunin and Steven Stokes.

officials at groundbreaking for USU Bioproducts Sacle-Up Facility

The 70,000-square-foot high bay facility will house large fermentation equipment. (left to right) Edward Redd, Randy Lewis, Stan Albrecht, Travis Lish, Jeff Woodbury, Randy Woodbury, Scott Hinton, Steven Stokes.

Utah State University broke ground on a new building located in the heart of Innovation Campus. The Bioproducts Scale-Up Facility seeks to maximize the research-to-commercialization potential of Utah Science Technology and Research (USTAR) professor Randy Lewis’s work on the creation of synthetic spider silk. The 70,000-square-foot high bay facility will house large fermentation equipment allowing researchers to take the next step in producing large volumes of spider silk protein.

The building is the result of the innovative work currently being done by USU’s USTAR faculty and students in the Synthetic Biomanufacturing Institute.

“It’s a significant milestone for USU to have a new material like spider silk emerge from our research enterprise,” said Scott Hinton, director of the Synthetic Biomanufacturing Institute. “In this new facility, our faculty and students will have an opportunity to further explore, grow and develop this intriguing new material for a wide variety of commercial applications.”

Lewis and his team began its research and production of synthetic spider silk proteins in silk worms, alfalfa and transgenic goats. The group is now ready to move to commercial scale production of the proteins within fermentation tanks. Spider silk is stronger than Kevlar, more elastic than nylon and has thermal conductivity properties comparable to copper. Applications for spider silk vary from fibers like strings, ropes and tire treads, all the way to medical scaffolding, coatings, sealants and 3D printing, liquid gels and cosmetics.

Lewis’s innovative research has garnered press attention from around the world and commercial interest from numerous companies. As a result, Araknitek, Inc., a Utah State University “spin-out” company was created to commercialize products that emerge from scientific investigations of synthetic spider silk proteins.

“We look forward to working with the innovative team at Araknitek as it makes great strides in the commercialization of spider silk” said Robert Behunin, Utah State’s vice president for Advancement and Commercialization. “The company has already secured licenses to a broad portfolio of intellectual property based on and related to synthetic spider silk technology. We look forward to seeing its growth.”

In its initial business development efforts, Araknitek will provide bulk quantities of synthetic spider silk protein and access to proprietary production processes to its customers with licenses to make and sell market specific materials, devices or goods.

USU’s Innovation Campus has made significant additions to the technologies and innovations housed on the campus over the past few years. In today’s highly competitive funding environment, Innovation Campus, in conjunction with Commercial Enterprises, the USTAR initiative and the Woodbury Corporation, are partnering to solve problems through research and innovation.

“The new Bioproduct Scale-Up Facility is an example of the growth and development of our USTAR research program, moving basic research towards further applied research and commercialization,” Utah State University President Stan Albrecht said. “It is also indicative of the future of our Innovation Campus, where we hope to house similar applied research and commercial activities.”

Contact: Kate Peterson Astle, marketing and business development manager, Utah State University Commercial Enterprises, 435-797-9608,

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