Japan biotech firm Spiber nabs $310M to offer protein polymers to apparel brand

Brewed Protein
Image credit: Spiber

Spiber has been developing plant-based artificial protein fiber material called Brewed Protein. The Japanese startup announced on Wednesday that it has secured 24.4 billion yen (about $218 million) in funding from investors including Carlyle, Fidelity International, Baillie Gifford, and the Japanese Government-backed Cool Japan Fund plus 10 billion yen (about $91 million) utilizing a value securitization structure.

The structure was arranged by Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities with participation from unnamed initial lender(s) and investor(s). For the startup, this follows their $240 million funding announced in January which was arranged by the same securities company with participation from The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ as the initial lender and a credit investor.

Spiber was founded in 2007 as a spin-off from the Institute for Advanced Biosciences at Keio University in Tsuruoka City, Yamagata Prefecture. Since its incorporating, the company has to date secured an estimated total amount of over 70 billion yen (about $6.4 million) in past rounds, and is reportedly valued at 133 billion yen ($1.2 billion).

Initially focused on spider silk which is said to be the strongest material on earth, the company had been developing a man-made synthetic fiber material called Qmonos. However, although the protein fibroin in spider silk is strong, it causes super shrinkage when wet, making it difficult to maintain the dimensional stability of products made from the material. Subsequently the startup succeeded to develop a protein fiber with high dimensional stability by removing the amino acid sequence features causing shrinkage from the fibroin gene, and rebranded Qmonos into Brewed Protein.

The new material is produced by microbial fermentation from plant-based sugars such as glucose and sucrose, which does not require any petroleum-derived material at all. It attracts huge attention because of many use cases: a microplastic-free and non-animal-derived material in the apparel industry, contributing to weight reduction in the logistics industry, a next-generation core material for artificial hair in the medical industry.

The biotech firm is currently working on a joint project with an undisclosed global apparel brand using Brewed Protein. In order to meet the brand’s demand, the firm is planning to launch its first mass-production plant in Rayong, Thailand by the end of this year, followed promptly by another plant in the U.S.

via PR Times