Biopolymers, Biomaterials

Engineering designer proteins for biodegradable fibers with intrinsic and tunable performance properties

Saal Bira
Mittwoch, 11.09.2024, 14:45 - 15:10 Uhr

Functionalizing textile fibers to impart color, stretch or other desired characteristics often requires harsh and toxic chemical processes, resulting in large-scale emissions of greenhouse gasses and wastewater. By leveraging nature’s vast library of functional proteins, Werewool is functionalizing fibers using a mild biological process, while maintaining the biodegradable properties of the base biopolymer. Through initial generations of colored and stretchable fibers, we have demonstrated the application of our platform technology – engineering proteins to create performance textiles that are tunable to customer aesthetic and performance needs.

Nicholas Kruyer (Werewool)
As society continues to advance, we are demanding more out of our clothing: we want it to wick away our sweat, protect us from the sun, and be our favorite color. To cater to these demands, the performance textile market utilizes synthetic textile fibers that are derived from petroleum byproducts and rely on toxic dyeing and finishing chemicals. Werewool uses strategic biomimicry to engineer high-performance, biodegradable textile fibers with inherent properties, such as color, moisture management, and elasticity, provided by designer proteins. Starting with color, we have engineered a panel of fluorescent and chromo-proteins which have shown potential to impart stable, vibrant color to our base biopolymer without the need for toxic, non-biodegradable, synthetic dyes. Through protein engineering, we were able to develop a palette of colored proteins which can withstand commercial fiber processing conditions and can be mixed to achieve a wider range of colors from a discrete set of engineered inputs. To date, we have incorporated this technology into our wet-spun fiber dopes through an enzymatic crosslinking reaction. In addition to color, we also developed a functional protein that has the potential to replace elastane to impart improved stretch capability into our fibers. This technology gives us a biodegradable additive that can increase a fiber’s elongation at break and improve its elastic recovery. With an eye towards the future, we look to leverage the almost limitless library of functional proteins found in nature to impart a wide range of fiber functionalities, expanding upon our platform technology to meet customer and consumer needs.