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The Rise of The Bioneers. Innovating with Proteins to Transform Industries. Part 1.
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The Rise of The Bioneers. Innovating with Proteins to Transform Industries. Part 1.

The Rise of The Bioneers. Innovating with Proteins to Transform Industries. Part 1.

May 30, 2024

·

Cradle

In the vast tapestry of life on Earth, a common thread weaves through every living organism, from the smallest microbe to the largest mammal: proteins. These minuscule marvels, invisible to the naked eye, are the driving force behind the incredible diversity and complexity of life as we know it. Proteins are nature's tiny machines, meticulously crafted by billions of years of evolution to perform an astonishing array of functions with unparalleled precision and efficiency.

But the power of proteins extends far beyond the boundaries of living cells. Just as they are the building blocks of life, proteins hold the key to revolutionizing the world around us. With their ability to catalyze chemical reactions, bind to specific molecules, and self-assemble into intricate structures, proteins offer a vast untapped potential for innovation across industries.

Imagine a world where we can harness the power of proteins to create sustainable alternatives to petrochemicals, develop eco-friendly plastics that break down harmlessly in the environment and produce animal-free proteins for food and personal care products. This is not a distant dream but a reality that is already taking shape thanks to the groundbreaking work of visionary companies and researchers around the globe.

Join us on a captivating journey as we explore the rise of the bioneers—the pioneers who are leveraging the incredible versatility and adaptability of proteins to transform industries and create a more sustainable future for our planet. In this first part of a series, we'll delve into how proteins are being used to revolutionize food production, fragrances, and textiles. In an upcoming second part, we'll explore how proteins are being harnessed to tackle plastic waste, revolutionize the chemical industry, and more. We are confident that this is just the beginning of a movement where, eventually, a million companies will replace traditional products and production methods with more sustainable products and methods of production. From designing enzymes that can recycle plastic waste and sequester carbon from the atmosphere to engineering microbes that produce the essence of endangered sandalwood, these innovators are pushing the boundaries of what is possible with nature's tiny machines, and this is why we at Cradle want to make it as easy as possible to design proteins.


Beyond Plants and Animals

To delve deeply into the myriad uses of proteins, we must first begin with a topic that's not only the most apparent purpose of proteins but also consistently at the forefront of everyone's thoughts—food. While it's widely understood that consuming protein is crucial for maintaining good health, the escalating global demand for food and protein, in particular, is stretching our available resources thin. Moreover, both traditional sources of protein, like animal agriculture, and plant-based alternatives, such as legumes or whole grains, come with negative environmental consequences, including extensive land use, greenhouse gas emissions, soil degradation, and habitat destruction. Not enough resources to produce enough protein combined with detrimental environmental impact, and you have a problem where a simple "let's grow more food and print more money" doesn't help to solve anything.

But no one has said that plants and animals are the only protein sources.

The Berkeley-based company Perfect Day developed a way to produce dairy proteins, like whey, with not a single mammal or plant involved in the process. Utilizing their expertise in strain engineering, the company integrated a whey-producing gene into a fungus that typically minds its own business in soil. The tailored fungi, housed in a bioreactor with growth media, undergo fermentation, resulting in the production of beta-lactoglobulin, a type of whey protein. It is animal, lactose, and cholesterol-free and can be used as an ingredient in dairy alternatives like milk, cheese, and ice cream, which mimic the taste and texture of traditional dairy products. Additionally, this process emits fewer greenhouse gases and consumes less water compared to conventional milk protein production methods—a clear win-win scenario!

And while Perfect Day focuses on creating whey protein through precision fermentation, EVERY Company takes on the challenge of replicating chicken egg proteins. Using a process akin to Perfect Day's, EVERY Company inserts the DNA sequences responsible for egg protein production into yeast cells. Once these engineered yeast cells are fed a sugar and kept under carefully regulated conditions, they grow and produce the desired egg proteins.

The proteins produced through this method are nearly identical to those found in chicken eggs, with the same structural and functional properties as traditional egg whites. This similarity allows them to be seamlessly integrated into a myriad of food applications, including baking, cooking, beverages, and desserts. The proteins exhibit the same characteristics valued by food manufacturers, such as foaming, binding, and emulsifying. These attributes make EVERY Companys' animal-free egg proteins a highly versatile ingredient for those seeking sustainable and ethical alternatives without compromising on performance or flavor.


​​Fragrant Solutions for Endangered Scents

The captivating aromas of sandalwood and oranges have enchanted humanity for millennia. Yet, the once abundant Mysore sandalwood tree faced near extinction due to unsustainable harvesting practices, while the production of orange flavors has traditionally relied on resource-intensive extraction processes. Enter the visionary fragrance house Firmenich, the pioneering biotech company Amyris, and the innovative Isobionics (now BASF), who have harnessed the power of biotechnology to revolutionize the world of sustainable aromas.

Firmenich and Amyris joined forces to create alternatives to endangered sandalwood. They engineered microorganisms to act as miniature aroma factories. By decoding the genetic sequences responsible for producing the desired fragrance compounds and introducing them into yeast, they programmed these microbes to convert simple sugars into the essence of sandalwood. This process involves a cascade of enzymatic reactions, where proteins play a crucial role in catalyzing the transformation of sugars into the target molecules. The result is their crowning achievements, Clearwood, a patchouli-scented marvel, and Dreamwood, capturing the olfactory warmth and cosmetic benefits of sandalwood, which offer consistent, high-quality alternatives to the increasingly scarce natural ingredient.

Similarly, Isobionics (now BASF) has pioneered its own innovative fermentation technology to create sustainable solutions for both sandalwood and orange aromas. By carefully selecting and optimizing the microbial strains and enzymes involved in the fermentation process, Isobionics ensures efficient and sustainable production of Santalol, a renewable alternative to traditional sandalwood oil, and Valencene, a natural flavoring that replicates the tantalizing aroma of oranges. 

As the fragrance industry embraces these sustainable innovations, perfumers can continue to craft captivating scents while safeguarding the world's most precious aromatic treasures. The work of Firmenich, Amyris, and Isobionics (now BASF) paves the way for a future where the art of perfumery and the needs of our planet harmoniously intertwine, all thanks to the intricate dance of proteins within microbial cell factories.


Proteins vs. Petrochemicals

The prevalence of materials derived from petroleum around us is undeniable. From the plastic packaging we use to the textiles in our clothing and the construction materials in our buildings, petrochemicals have become an integral part of our lives. However, the adverse environmental impact of these materials has become increasingly apparent.

Yet, amidst the dominance of petrochemicals, there's a game-changing alternative, particularly in the textile realm: proteins. Spiber, a Japanese biotechnology company, has pioneered the development of denim, fleece, knit, woven fabric, and even leather substitutes using its unique protein design platform. Drawing inspiration from spider silk protein fibers, Spiber's founders, Kazuhide Sekiyama and Junichi Sugahara, sought to create a synthetic material molecularly identical to spider silk. Renowned for its extraordinary strength surpassing that of steel and resilience exceeding that of Kevlar, spider silk has historically found diverse applications, ranging from medical uses like wound healing to serving as a thread for crosshairs in optical devices such as microscopes.

Despite the remarkable properties of silk protein, there is one significant obstacle—spiders are cannibalistic. Therefore, industrial-scale production of spider silk, unlike that of silkworm silk, is unfeasible due to spiders' predatory behavior. Nonetheless, Spiber has developed a synthetic production method. Through detailed research on the molecular structure and genetic information of spider silk proteins, they design DNA sequences that can be introduced into microbes to produce polymers with desired characteristics via fermentation. The resulting Brewed Proteins are then extracted and processed into various forms, including filament yarns and staple fibers.
Spiber claims that fabrics made from Brewed Proteins can biodegrade in marine environments, decompose in soil, and require less water and land for production.

And while Spiber offers a promising solution to petroleum in textiles, the next battleground awaits in the foodware and automotive industries. Founded in 2003 on the West Coast, Newlight Technologies has not only discovered an alternative to synthetic plastics such as polyethylene and polypropylene but has also done so by harnessing and repurposing greenhouse gas emissions.

At the core of Newlight Technologies' innovation lies AirCarbon—an eco-friendly plastic derived from polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB), a biopolymer naturally produced by various microorganisms to store carbon and energy in response to stress. For instance, in nutrient-limited environments, methanotrophs, microorganisms that consume methane, employ enzyme-mediated reactions to produce PHB from acetyl-CoA molecules, utilizing a range of enzymes, with assistance from phasin proteins to facilitate PHB synthesis and granule formation.

Although this biosynthesis occurs naturally, scaling it up for industrial production presents significant challenges due to the complexity of optimal conditions. While Newlight Technologies has not disclosed specifics about its methods, it likely utilizes microorganisms similar to methanotrophs. Despite the challenges, Newlight Technologies has successfully scaled up this process, creating a carbon-negative method and an eco-friendly alternative to petroleum-derived plastic.

As we conclude the first part of our exploration into the world of bioneers, it's clear that the potential for proteins to revolutionize industries is vast and exciting. From transforming food production and creating sustainable fragrances to pioneering eco-friendly textiles and plastic alternatives, these innovative companies are just scratching the surface of what's possible. In the upcoming second part, we'll dive deeper into how proteins are being harnessed to tackle plastic waste, revolutionize the chemical industry, and more. The future is bright, and the rise of the bioneers is just beginning. Stay tuned for more fascinating insights into the incredible power of nature's tiny machines and how they are shaping a more sustainable world.

The Rise of The Bioneers. Innovating with Proteins to Transform Industries. Part 1.

May 30, 2024

·

Cradle

In the vast tapestry of life on Earth, a common thread weaves through every living organism, from the smallest microbe to the largest mammal: proteins. These minuscule marvels, invisible to the naked eye, are the driving force behind the incredible diversity and complexity of life as we know it. Proteins are nature's tiny machines, meticulously crafted by billions of years of evolution to perform an astonishing array of functions with unparalleled precision and efficiency.

But the power of proteins extends far beyond the boundaries of living cells. Just as they are the building blocks of life, proteins hold the key to revolutionizing the world around us. With their ability to catalyze chemical reactions, bind to specific molecules, and self-assemble into intricate structures, proteins offer a vast untapped potential for innovation across industries.

Imagine a world where we can harness the power of proteins to create sustainable alternatives to petrochemicals, develop eco-friendly plastics that break down harmlessly in the environment and produce animal-free proteins for food and personal care products. This is not a distant dream but a reality that is already taking shape thanks to the groundbreaking work of visionary companies and researchers around the globe.

Join us on a captivating journey as we explore the rise of the bioneers—the pioneers who are leveraging the incredible versatility and adaptability of proteins to transform industries and create a more sustainable future for our planet. In this first part of a series, we'll delve into how proteins are being used to revolutionize food production, fragrances, and textiles. In an upcoming second part, we'll explore how proteins are being harnessed to tackle plastic waste, revolutionize the chemical industry, and more. We are confident that this is just the beginning of a movement where, eventually, a million companies will replace traditional products and production methods with more sustainable products and methods of production. From designing enzymes that can recycle plastic waste and sequester carbon from the atmosphere to engineering microbes that produce the essence of endangered sandalwood, these innovators are pushing the boundaries of what is possible with nature's tiny machines, and this is why we at Cradle want to make it as easy as possible to design proteins.


Beyond Plants and Animals

To delve deeply into the myriad uses of proteins, we must first begin with a topic that's not only the most apparent purpose of proteins but also consistently at the forefront of everyone's thoughts—food. While it's widely understood that consuming protein is crucial for maintaining good health, the escalating global demand for food and protein, in particular, is stretching our available resources thin. Moreover, both traditional sources of protein, like animal agriculture, and plant-based alternatives, such as legumes or whole grains, come with negative environmental consequences, including extensive land use, greenhouse gas emissions, soil degradation, and habitat destruction. Not enough resources to produce enough protein combined with detrimental environmental impact, and you have a problem where a simple "let's grow more food and print more money" doesn't help to solve anything.

But no one has said that plants and animals are the only protein sources.

The Berkeley-based company Perfect Day developed a way to produce dairy proteins, like whey, with not a single mammal or plant involved in the process. Utilizing their expertise in strain engineering, the company integrated a whey-producing gene into a fungus that typically minds its own business in soil. The tailored fungi, housed in a bioreactor with growth media, undergo fermentation, resulting in the production of beta-lactoglobulin, a type of whey protein. It is animal, lactose, and cholesterol-free and can be used as an ingredient in dairy alternatives like milk, cheese, and ice cream, which mimic the taste and texture of traditional dairy products. Additionally, this process emits fewer greenhouse gases and consumes less water compared to conventional milk protein production methods—a clear win-win scenario!

And while Perfect Day focuses on creating whey protein through precision fermentation, EVERY Company takes on the challenge of replicating chicken egg proteins. Using a process akin to Perfect Day's, EVERY Company inserts the DNA sequences responsible for egg protein production into yeast cells. Once these engineered yeast cells are fed a sugar and kept under carefully regulated conditions, they grow and produce the desired egg proteins.

The proteins produced through this method are nearly identical to those found in chicken eggs, with the same structural and functional properties as traditional egg whites. This similarity allows them to be seamlessly integrated into a myriad of food applications, including baking, cooking, beverages, and desserts. The proteins exhibit the same characteristics valued by food manufacturers, such as foaming, binding, and emulsifying. These attributes make EVERY Companys' animal-free egg proteins a highly versatile ingredient for those seeking sustainable and ethical alternatives without compromising on performance or flavor.


​​Fragrant Solutions for Endangered Scents

The captivating aromas of sandalwood and oranges have enchanted humanity for millennia. Yet, the once abundant Mysore sandalwood tree faced near extinction due to unsustainable harvesting practices, while the production of orange flavors has traditionally relied on resource-intensive extraction processes. Enter the visionary fragrance house Firmenich, the pioneering biotech company Amyris, and the innovative Isobionics (now BASF), who have harnessed the power of biotechnology to revolutionize the world of sustainable aromas.

Firmenich and Amyris joined forces to create alternatives to endangered sandalwood. They engineered microorganisms to act as miniature aroma factories. By decoding the genetic sequences responsible for producing the desired fragrance compounds and introducing them into yeast, they programmed these microbes to convert simple sugars into the essence of sandalwood. This process involves a cascade of enzymatic reactions, where proteins play a crucial role in catalyzing the transformation of sugars into the target molecules. The result is their crowning achievements, Clearwood, a patchouli-scented marvel, and Dreamwood, capturing the olfactory warmth and cosmetic benefits of sandalwood, which offer consistent, high-quality alternatives to the increasingly scarce natural ingredient.

Similarly, Isobionics (now BASF) has pioneered its own innovative fermentation technology to create sustainable solutions for both sandalwood and orange aromas. By carefully selecting and optimizing the microbial strains and enzymes involved in the fermentation process, Isobionics ensures efficient and sustainable production of Santalol, a renewable alternative to traditional sandalwood oil, and Valencene, a natural flavoring that replicates the tantalizing aroma of oranges. 

As the fragrance industry embraces these sustainable innovations, perfumers can continue to craft captivating scents while safeguarding the world's most precious aromatic treasures. The work of Firmenich, Amyris, and Isobionics (now BASF) paves the way for a future where the art of perfumery and the needs of our planet harmoniously intertwine, all thanks to the intricate dance of proteins within microbial cell factories.


Proteins vs. Petrochemicals

The prevalence of materials derived from petroleum around us is undeniable. From the plastic packaging we use to the textiles in our clothing and the construction materials in our buildings, petrochemicals have become an integral part of our lives. However, the adverse environmental impact of these materials has become increasingly apparent.

Yet, amidst the dominance of petrochemicals, there's a game-changing alternative, particularly in the textile realm: proteins. Spiber, a Japanese biotechnology company, has pioneered the development of denim, fleece, knit, woven fabric, and even leather substitutes using its unique protein design platform. Drawing inspiration from spider silk protein fibers, Spiber's founders, Kazuhide Sekiyama and Junichi Sugahara, sought to create a synthetic material molecularly identical to spider silk. Renowned for its extraordinary strength surpassing that of steel and resilience exceeding that of Kevlar, spider silk has historically found diverse applications, ranging from medical uses like wound healing to serving as a thread for crosshairs in optical devices such as microscopes.

Despite the remarkable properties of silk protein, there is one significant obstacle—spiders are cannibalistic. Therefore, industrial-scale production of spider silk, unlike that of silkworm silk, is unfeasible due to spiders' predatory behavior. Nonetheless, Spiber has developed a synthetic production method. Through detailed research on the molecular structure and genetic information of spider silk proteins, they design DNA sequences that can be introduced into microbes to produce polymers with desired characteristics via fermentation. The resulting Brewed Proteins are then extracted and processed into various forms, including filament yarns and staple fibers.
Spiber claims that fabrics made from Brewed Proteins can biodegrade in marine environments, decompose in soil, and require less water and land for production.

And while Spiber offers a promising solution to petroleum in textiles, the next battleground awaits in the foodware and automotive industries. Founded in 2003 on the West Coast, Newlight Technologies has not only discovered an alternative to synthetic plastics such as polyethylene and polypropylene but has also done so by harnessing and repurposing greenhouse gas emissions.

At the core of Newlight Technologies' innovation lies AirCarbon—an eco-friendly plastic derived from polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB), a biopolymer naturally produced by various microorganisms to store carbon and energy in response to stress. For instance, in nutrient-limited environments, methanotrophs, microorganisms that consume methane, employ enzyme-mediated reactions to produce PHB from acetyl-CoA molecules, utilizing a range of enzymes, with assistance from phasin proteins to facilitate PHB synthesis and granule formation.

Although this biosynthesis occurs naturally, scaling it up for industrial production presents significant challenges due to the complexity of optimal conditions. While Newlight Technologies has not disclosed specifics about its methods, it likely utilizes microorganisms similar to methanotrophs. Despite the challenges, Newlight Technologies has successfully scaled up this process, creating a carbon-negative method and an eco-friendly alternative to petroleum-derived plastic.

As we conclude the first part of our exploration into the world of bioneers, it's clear that the potential for proteins to revolutionize industries is vast and exciting. From transforming food production and creating sustainable fragrances to pioneering eco-friendly textiles and plastic alternatives, these innovative companies are just scratching the surface of what's possible. In the upcoming second part, we'll dive deeper into how proteins are being harnessed to tackle plastic waste, revolutionize the chemical industry, and more. The future is bright, and the rise of the bioneers is just beginning. Stay tuned for more fascinating insights into the incredible power of nature's tiny machines and how they are shaping a more sustainable world.

The Rise of The Bioneers. Innovating with Proteins to Transform Industries. Part 1.

May 30, 2024

·

Cradle

In the vast tapestry of life on Earth, a common thread weaves through every living organism, from the smallest microbe to the largest mammal: proteins. These minuscule marvels, invisible to the naked eye, are the driving force behind the incredible diversity and complexity of life as we know it. Proteins are nature's tiny machines, meticulously crafted by billions of years of evolution to perform an astonishing array of functions with unparalleled precision and efficiency.

But the power of proteins extends far beyond the boundaries of living cells. Just as they are the building blocks of life, proteins hold the key to revolutionizing the world around us. With their ability to catalyze chemical reactions, bind to specific molecules, and self-assemble into intricate structures, proteins offer a vast untapped potential for innovation across industries.

Imagine a world where we can harness the power of proteins to create sustainable alternatives to petrochemicals, develop eco-friendly plastics that break down harmlessly in the environment and produce animal-free proteins for food and personal care products. This is not a distant dream but a reality that is already taking shape thanks to the groundbreaking work of visionary companies and researchers around the globe.

Join us on a captivating journey as we explore the rise of the bioneers—the pioneers who are leveraging the incredible versatility and adaptability of proteins to transform industries and create a more sustainable future for our planet. In this first part of a series, we'll delve into how proteins are being used to revolutionize food production, fragrances, and textiles. In an upcoming second part, we'll explore how proteins are being harnessed to tackle plastic waste, revolutionize the chemical industry, and more. We are confident that this is just the beginning of a movement where, eventually, a million companies will replace traditional products and production methods with more sustainable products and methods of production. From designing enzymes that can recycle plastic waste and sequester carbon from the atmosphere to engineering microbes that produce the essence of endangered sandalwood, these innovators are pushing the boundaries of what is possible with nature's tiny machines, and this is why we at Cradle want to make it as easy as possible to design proteins.


Beyond Plants and Animals

To delve deeply into the myriad uses of proteins, we must first begin with a topic that's not only the most apparent purpose of proteins but also consistently at the forefront of everyone's thoughts—food. While it's widely understood that consuming protein is crucial for maintaining good health, the escalating global demand for food and protein, in particular, is stretching our available resources thin. Moreover, both traditional sources of protein, like animal agriculture, and plant-based alternatives, such as legumes or whole grains, come with negative environmental consequences, including extensive land use, greenhouse gas emissions, soil degradation, and habitat destruction. Not enough resources to produce enough protein combined with detrimental environmental impact, and you have a problem where a simple "let's grow more food and print more money" doesn't help to solve anything.

But no one has said that plants and animals are the only protein sources.

The Berkeley-based company Perfect Day developed a way to produce dairy proteins, like whey, with not a single mammal or plant involved in the process. Utilizing their expertise in strain engineering, the company integrated a whey-producing gene into a fungus that typically minds its own business in soil. The tailored fungi, housed in a bioreactor with growth media, undergo fermentation, resulting in the production of beta-lactoglobulin, a type of whey protein. It is animal, lactose, and cholesterol-free and can be used as an ingredient in dairy alternatives like milk, cheese, and ice cream, which mimic the taste and texture of traditional dairy products. Additionally, this process emits fewer greenhouse gases and consumes less water compared to conventional milk protein production methods—a clear win-win scenario!

And while Perfect Day focuses on creating whey protein through precision fermentation, EVERY Company takes on the challenge of replicating chicken egg proteins. Using a process akin to Perfect Day's, EVERY Company inserts the DNA sequences responsible for egg protein production into yeast cells. Once these engineered yeast cells are fed a sugar and kept under carefully regulated conditions, they grow and produce the desired egg proteins.

The proteins produced through this method are nearly identical to those found in chicken eggs, with the same structural and functional properties as traditional egg whites. This similarity allows them to be seamlessly integrated into a myriad of food applications, including baking, cooking, beverages, and desserts. The proteins exhibit the same characteristics valued by food manufacturers, such as foaming, binding, and emulsifying. These attributes make EVERY Companys' animal-free egg proteins a highly versatile ingredient for those seeking sustainable and ethical alternatives without compromising on performance or flavor.


​​Fragrant Solutions for Endangered Scents

The captivating aromas of sandalwood and oranges have enchanted humanity for millennia. Yet, the once abundant Mysore sandalwood tree faced near extinction due to unsustainable harvesting practices, while the production of orange flavors has traditionally relied on resource-intensive extraction processes. Enter the visionary fragrance house Firmenich, the pioneering biotech company Amyris, and the innovative Isobionics (now BASF), who have harnessed the power of biotechnology to revolutionize the world of sustainable aromas.

Firmenich and Amyris joined forces to create alternatives to endangered sandalwood. They engineered microorganisms to act as miniature aroma factories. By decoding the genetic sequences responsible for producing the desired fragrance compounds and introducing them into yeast, they programmed these microbes to convert simple sugars into the essence of sandalwood. This process involves a cascade of enzymatic reactions, where proteins play a crucial role in catalyzing the transformation of sugars into the target molecules. The result is their crowning achievements, Clearwood, a patchouli-scented marvel, and Dreamwood, capturing the olfactory warmth and cosmetic benefits of sandalwood, which offer consistent, high-quality alternatives to the increasingly scarce natural ingredient.

Similarly, Isobionics (now BASF) has pioneered its own innovative fermentation technology to create sustainable solutions for both sandalwood and orange aromas. By carefully selecting and optimizing the microbial strains and enzymes involved in the fermentation process, Isobionics ensures efficient and sustainable production of Santalol, a renewable alternative to traditional sandalwood oil, and Valencene, a natural flavoring that replicates the tantalizing aroma of oranges. 

As the fragrance industry embraces these sustainable innovations, perfumers can continue to craft captivating scents while safeguarding the world's most precious aromatic treasures. The work of Firmenich, Amyris, and Isobionics (now BASF) paves the way for a future where the art of perfumery and the needs of our planet harmoniously intertwine, all thanks to the intricate dance of proteins within microbial cell factories.


Proteins vs. Petrochemicals

The prevalence of materials derived from petroleum around us is undeniable. From the plastic packaging we use to the textiles in our clothing and the construction materials in our buildings, petrochemicals have become an integral part of our lives. However, the adverse environmental impact of these materials has become increasingly apparent.

Yet, amidst the dominance of petrochemicals, there's a game-changing alternative, particularly in the textile realm: proteins. Spiber, a Japanese biotechnology company, has pioneered the development of denim, fleece, knit, woven fabric, and even leather substitutes using its unique protein design platform. Drawing inspiration from spider silk protein fibers, Spiber's founders, Kazuhide Sekiyama and Junichi Sugahara, sought to create a synthetic material molecularly identical to spider silk. Renowned for its extraordinary strength surpassing that of steel and resilience exceeding that of Kevlar, spider silk has historically found diverse applications, ranging from medical uses like wound healing to serving as a thread for crosshairs in optical devices such as microscopes.

Despite the remarkable properties of silk protein, there is one significant obstacle—spiders are cannibalistic. Therefore, industrial-scale production of spider silk, unlike that of silkworm silk, is unfeasible due to spiders' predatory behavior. Nonetheless, Spiber has developed a synthetic production method. Through detailed research on the molecular structure and genetic information of spider silk proteins, they design DNA sequences that can be introduced into microbes to produce polymers with desired characteristics via fermentation. The resulting Brewed Proteins are then extracted and processed into various forms, including filament yarns and staple fibers.
Spiber claims that fabrics made from Brewed Proteins can biodegrade in marine environments, decompose in soil, and require less water and land for production.

And while Spiber offers a promising solution to petroleum in textiles, the next battleground awaits in the foodware and automotive industries. Founded in 2003 on the West Coast, Newlight Technologies has not only discovered an alternative to synthetic plastics such as polyethylene and polypropylene but has also done so by harnessing and repurposing greenhouse gas emissions.

At the core of Newlight Technologies' innovation lies AirCarbon—an eco-friendly plastic derived from polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB), a biopolymer naturally produced by various microorganisms to store carbon and energy in response to stress. For instance, in nutrient-limited environments, methanotrophs, microorganisms that consume methane, employ enzyme-mediated reactions to produce PHB from acetyl-CoA molecules, utilizing a range of enzymes, with assistance from phasin proteins to facilitate PHB synthesis and granule formation.

Although this biosynthesis occurs naturally, scaling it up for industrial production presents significant challenges due to the complexity of optimal conditions. While Newlight Technologies has not disclosed specifics about its methods, it likely utilizes microorganisms similar to methanotrophs. Despite the challenges, Newlight Technologies has successfully scaled up this process, creating a carbon-negative method and an eco-friendly alternative to petroleum-derived plastic.

As we conclude the first part of our exploration into the world of bioneers, it's clear that the potential for proteins to revolutionize industries is vast and exciting. From transforming food production and creating sustainable fragrances to pioneering eco-friendly textiles and plastic alternatives, these innovative companies are just scratching the surface of what's possible. In the upcoming second part, we'll dive deeper into how proteins are being harnessed to tackle plastic waste, revolutionize the chemical industry, and more. The future is bright, and the rise of the bioneers is just beginning. Stay tuned for more fascinating insights into the incredible power of nature's tiny machines and how they are shaping a more sustainable world.

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Built with ❤️ in Amsterdam & Zurich