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Spiber Lands $222 Million in Latest Biomaterials Bonanza

Spiber landed hundreds of millions of dollars to facilitate its research and development of animal-free synthetic materials for fashion and other industries.

On Wednesday, the Japanese biomanufacturing startup said it received 24.4 billion yen ($222.4 million) through an equity investment round led by global investors like Carlyle and existing shareholders like Cool Japan Fund Inc. The company has also simultaneously approved a 10 billion yen ($91.1 million) capital raise through an extension of the value securitization structure which will be executed on Dec. 28. Organized by Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities Co., Ltd., the additional funding will bring Spiber’s total new investments to 34.4 billion yen ($313.5 million) this year.

Founded in 2007, Spiber is known for its Brewed Protein synthetic material platform of bio-based, biodegradable substitutes for animal-derived inputs like wool, leather, fur, cashmere and silk. While many synthetic options on the market rely on non-renewable polymers—or oils—Spiber’s portfolio is produced through microbial fermentation, using agricultural feedstocks as the raw material. The organic proteins ultimately reduce dependence on fossil fuels and offer a potential for lower greenhouse gas emissions, Spiber said.

The company’s central value proposition is that its range of offerings can take the place of both animal and plastic-based materials for use in industries like apparel and automotive, which rely on leathers and animal-based fibers. Using the new funds, Spiber plans to open a mass production plant in Thailand’s Rayong Province this year to complement its vertically integrated research and development operations in Japan. It also has plans to break ground on a second facility with partner ADM in Iowa by 2023.

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The company and its investors believe Spiber is poised to benefit from the increased focus on environmental and social stewardship across consumer goods industries. Carlyle’s investment represents the global investment firm’s first non-buyout growth investment in Japan, and Spiber hopes to leverage its network of luxury brands and material industry partners, along with its expertise in the area of sustainability. The American private equity group previously invested in fashion and beauty players like Moncler, Golden Goose, Jeanologia and Beautycounter.

Cool Japan Fund, which has supported Spiber since 2018, along with Fidelity International, Baillie Gifford, Tokyo Century, Yamagata Bank and Satake Chemical Equipment Mfg., will join this round of funding. Directors from Cool Japan Fund and Carlyle will serve on Spiber’s board, becoming the company’s domestic and global cornerstone investors.

“Leveraging the broad networks and deep expertise of these shareholders will allow Spiber to accelerate its global expansion projects, as well as further develop communication with domestic and global investors in preparation for an IPO within the next several years,” the company said in a statement.

Last fall, Spiber and American sportswear brand Goldwin brought to market the first Brewed Protein garment in the U.S.—a style called The Sweater, which retailed for $800. Made with a combination of Spiber’s biopolymer and wool, the heavy ski sweater represented the companies’ second collaboration, following an outerwear piece called the Moon Parka, developed in 2015 and brought to market four years later in collaboration with The North Face.