The silkworm hatchlings from the first stage of Kraig Biocraft Laboratories' Monster Silk™ pilot production program have now spun cocoons. The cocoons are made of Monster Silk, Kraig's recombinant spider silk.
The program, the launch of which was announced in January, is running in three stages, with stage 1 being the first of the production stages to produce Monster Silk cocoons; stage 2 of the program is reportedly now entering an advanced state. Kraig says that all three stages are ahead of schedule and are hitting or exceeding their milestones.
"This ambitious pilot production program is designed to test our systems and to become the basis for large commercial-scale production," said company founder and CEO, Kim K. Thompson. "The pilot production program goals included confirming Monster Silk's production scalability; to get these results so smoothly is a tremendous boost to the company's expansion plans."
Monster Silk came to be in May of 2011 when Kraig, a biotechnology company focused on developing genetically engineered spider silk-based fiber technologies, mated its transgenic silkworms, which produce recombinant spider silk and were the result of a collaborative research and development agreement with the University of Notre Dame, with a physically larger commercial strain of the domesticated silkworm. The resulting hybrid silkworms—the "Monster Hybrid"—are reportedly larger than Kraig's original transgenic silkworms and also produce significantly larger recombinant silk cocoons.
Kraig is wrapping other companies up in its cocoons as well: in April of 2011, they negotiated a license to use Sigma Life Science’s CompoZr zinc-finger nuclease (ZFN) gene-editing technology for generating genetically modified silkworms that produce spider silk. In November of that same year, they announced the creation of seven or more strains of transgenically modified silkworms using those ZFNs.