Naturally occurring biomaterials such as the silk from which spiders spin their webs have long been thought to have medical and industrial applications. However, due to the repetitive structure of genes encoding spider silk proteins, it has been difficult to generate microbial production systems for spider silk. Nexia Biotechnologies Inc. believes it has solved the problem by using a mammalian production system, its transgenic miniature African goats.

"Spider silk has been the holy grail of materials science, but the problem has been how to make it," said Jeffrey Turner, president and CEO of Nexia (Ste. Anne de Bellevue, Quebec). "The spider does it all at once - Nexia does it in two steps. We collect the milk and purify the silk proteins using dairy technology and then spin the protein into the crystalline filament outside the goat."