Tara Sutherland : Bio-synthetic Silk

  • Australia

Bio-synthetic Silk

Bio-synthetic silk is produced through a process that allows industrial volume silk production at room temperature without negative environmental effects.


In order to cope with the world’s increasingly growing and aging population along with increasingly active life-styles, the world needs new materials; particularly advanced materials i.e. intelligent textiles, sensing materials, materials that respond. The medical and textile industries are particularly in need of smart materials—materials that can think for themselves.


Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), has extensively researched information encoding materials, inspired by nature, or “smart materials” and found that honey bee silk can be converted into a variety of forms. In contrast to other silk proteins, the molecular structure of these silks allows the team to reproduce full-length versions of these proteins at unprecedented levels in recombinant systems. It is highly flexible and suitable for knitting and weaving and can be formed into sponges, transparent films, biomimetic fibers and nanofibers.

“Proteins are under-represented in materials science mainly because, until now, the lack of structural protein templates that can be engineered and generated in sufficient amounts has limited exploration in this area.” – Tara Sutherland, Principle Research Scientist for CSIRO Division of Ecosystem Sciences

Stage of Innovation: Prototype


Research indicates that the artificial honeybee silk proteins will be suitable scaffolds for regenerative medicine and have potential application for encapsulation and stabilisation of vaccines. Given the versatility of the material in relation to fabric forms, physical and mechanical properties and ability to encode information within the material, the team anticipates market opportunities in aerospace and health industries.

“CSIRO has overcome the production limitation by being able to generate the recombinant proteins to high quality and quantity specifications.” – Lionel Henderson, Business Development Director for CSIRO Plant Industry