US Army Boosts Spending on Genetically Engineered Spider Silk for Possible Use in Body Armor, Soldier Underwear

The U.S. Army is upping its investment in genetically engineered spider silk for body armor. Last year, the service paid almost $100,000 to Kraig Biocraft Laboratories, which makes spider silk that can be produced at scale — with silkworms. On Wednesday, the company announced that the Army will move to the second phase of the contract and will look to Kraig to produce a customized strain of the silk for “high-performance fibers for protective apparel applications.” That is: flexible body armor made from genetically engineered spider silk. The total contract amount would reach $900,000 if parameters are met. Army representatives said that interested in the material purely from a research perspective, for now.

Kraig Biocraft injects spider DNA into silkworm eggs, enabling the worms to produce its custom silk. The researchers describe the process in this 2011 PNAS paper.

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