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Some Patagonia Products Will Soon be Made from Faux Spider Silk

Bolt Threads, a U.S.-based biotechnology company working to transform the textiles market, has raised $50 million in Series C financing after attracting the interest of new investors and partners, including Patagonia.

The start-up, which was founded in 2009 and launched out of stealth last year, uses proprietary techniques to produce Engineered Silk, a manmade material that mimics the properties of spider silk and other insect fibers. It’s created wholly of natural materials and can be fine-tuned to deliver specific benefits.

Existing investor Formation 8 led the round, along with new investors, including Nan Fung, a business conglomerate based in Hong Kong, and Innovation Endeavors. Other existing investors, including Alafi Capital, East West Capital, Foundation Capital and Founders Fund also participated.

Bolt is already producing its Engineered Silk protein at large scale, with outsourced manufacturing partners, but plans to move into yarn manufacturing this summer.

“The $1.5 trillion textiles industry hasn’t achieved a major step forward since the 1930s, with the development of nylon,” Jim Kim, founder and managing partner of Formation 8, said in a press release Wednesday. “Bolt Threads’ engineered and elegant silks represent an opportunity to fundamentally impact and enable properties in clothing we never dreamed would be possible.”

Bolt’s technology moves away from petroleum-based polymers, toxic processes and non-renewable materials and towards closed-loop production, sustainable fabrics and more renewable solutions. According to the start-up’s website, the Engineered Silk protein is produced in large quantities through fermentation, using yeast, sugar and water, which is then spun into fibers that can be knit or woven.

“Dan and the team at Bolt Threads are visionaries who have applied new-age proprietary techniques to a non-traditional technology opportunity in a big, old-world sector. We look forward to the fashion and function trends that Bolt Threads will lead in textiles,” Kim said.

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“Manmade fabrics like nylon and polyester have transformed the fashion industry, for better and for worse,” Bolt Threads CEO Dan Widmaier said. “The use of hydrocarbon polymers in these textiles has created a lingering toxic problem for the environment. At Bolt Threads, we’re re-thinking textile manufacturing, producing high performance materials that are also not nearly as harmful to the environment as existing options. It’s an incredibly important and challenging problem to solve and we’re excited to collaborate with Patagonia and other partners to make cleaner textile production a reality.”