A biomaterials startup is running into Vietnam production problems as a result of the nation’s escalating coronavirus crisis.
Though Kraig Biocraft Laboratories’ Vietnamese subsidiary has now produced enough silk to create a number of different fabric blends, Covid infections are hampering delivery of the innovative raw material.
Kraig’s Prodigy Textiles subsidiary designed these fabrics in partnership with PL Kings for use in products under the jointly owned Spydasilk brand. The company had expected to have these fabrics produced in Vietnam by the end of the second quarter, but is now sourcing mills outside of Vietnam, given the rising infections and restrictions stymying operations there and hamstringing delivery to PL Kings.
Kraig is now coordinating the export of its finished recombinant spider silk in tandem with PL Kings and identifying alternative mills within the ASEAN region capable of producing these fabrics.
Kraig’s technology was designed to be a substitute for traditional silk production systems and operations at Prodigy have demonstrated that its specialized silkworms can be easily raised using traditional methods. At this time, the company has not been required to close its Prodigy Textiles facility, but with lockdowns increasing in several cities, Kraig said it is “preparing for every potentiality.”
Travel restrictions and the required closure of many business segments of the economy, including transportation across Vietnam, have significantly slowed the company’s production operations. The additional lab and testing equipment the company scheduled for installation is now also on hold due to shutdowns at the Hanoi-based supplier, which also caused delays and subsequent destruction of silkworm egg shipments.
U.S. operations, including research and development and egg production, topped expectations over the most recent three quarters, the company said. Kraig has developed four separate strains of its nearly pure spider silk line of hybrids it believes are almost ready for the transition to production. The R&D team in the U.S. is now working to ensure the genetic inserts are in a stable homozygous configuration.
The company hopes to be able to transition these hybrids to Prodigy Textiles. However, before this shipment can happen, it needs to have a reliable means of delivering these new technologies to Vietnam and Prodigy’s factory.
“We’ve been pressing hard on multiple facets of our spider silk fiber production program in order to…bring value to our shareholders,” Jon Rice, chief operating officer if Kraig, said. “We have also been working to create a set of contingency plans and workarounds for the constantly evolving COVID-19 restriction in Vietnam and around the world…This latest wave of COVID shutdowns is impacting our operations and our Prodigy team members more severely than anything we have previously experienced. With that said, between our teams at Prodigy and Kraig Labs, I am confident that we will weather this storm, as we have so many in the past. We are working now to get our finished silk out of Vietnam so that they can be converted into fabrics and delivered into the hands of our partners at PL Kings.”