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October 2017: Oxford Biomaterials' collaboration with Aberdeen University on silk for spinal cord repair is highlighted in Oxford University's news



December 2015: successful "Proof of concept" Smart grant 
£77,000 was awarded to Oxford Biomaterials to continue to develop a new, more cost effective process to dissolve wild silk proteins. The silk proteins obtained will be tested for medical implant application.

October 14th 2015: Oxford Biomaterials voted best pitch of its group at the Collaboration Nations event in London!

July 2015: Successful "Development of Prototype" Smart grant awarded to OBM for its haemodialysis graft.
£250,000 was awarded to Oxford Biomaterials to undertake all the pre-clinical studies of its exciting and novel silk-based haemodialysis graft. Oxford Biomaterials is looking for investors to match the funding of this grant and initiate the pre-clinical trials. 

May 2015: Successful "Technology Inspired Feasibility study" grant obtained from Innovate UK. 
The study will last 4 months and investigate a new proprietary process to dissolve silk proteins more effectively.

November 2013 : TSB Smart grant
Oxford Biomaterials awarded £100,000 for a Proof of concept Smart Grant from the Technology Strategy board
to pursue the development of the hemodialysis graft.
March 2013 : Who's the Pest? BBC Radio 4
Interview with Professor Fritz Vollrath, from the Department of Zoology at Oxford University, about his research into spider silk,
in particular how it is produced and its unique properties.
February 2013 : Prof Vollrath and OBM spin-outs in ITV Meridian documentary :
February 2013 : 6th International Conference on Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology, NZ
OBM silk technology was featured in New Zealand talk by Dr David Musson from Prof Jill Cornish's group at the University of Auckland : "Spider-like silk as potential scaffold for tendon tissue engineering, an in vitro evaluation".
January 2013 : Neurotex patent "Methods and Apparatus for Enhanced Growth of Peripheral Nerves and Nervous Tissue" was granted in China.
January 2013 : OBM recruits new team for its Vascular graft project -Product Development Engineer Dr Andreia Vasconcelos, Research Technician Richard Basset and Laboratory Technician Sheena Vadgama.
February 2012 : BioTrinity 2012 (April 24-26, 2012)

We are delighted to announce that Stephanie Lesage, COO at Oxford Biomaterials has been accepted to present at this year’s biopartnering and investment conference.  Read more about the conference (http://www.biotrinity.com/)

January 2012
After being granted in Europe and in Japan, the Neurotex patent "Methods and Apparatus for Enhanced              
Growth of Peripheral Nerves and Nervous Tissue"  was also granted in the United States this year in January 2012.
25th May 2011

Oxford Biomaterials Unravels Wild Silk - In the New York Times
"A newly discovered technique may make the unraveling process easier, and help the silk industry
expand to new regions beyond Asia."

Press releases

ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: May 18, 2011

New method of unreeling cocoons could extend silk industry beyond Asia

Silkworm cocoons can be unraveled more easily
using a new method that could help expand the
silk industry beyond Asia.

The development and successful testing of a method for unreeling the strands of silk in wild silkworm cocoons could clear the way for establishment of new silk industries not only in Asia but also in vast areas of Africa and South America. The report appears in ACS’ journal Biomacromolecules.

Fritz Vollrath, Tom Gheysens and colleagues explain that silk is made by unraveling — or unreeling — the fine, soft thread from cocoons of silkmoths.  The practice began as far back as 3500 BC in ancient China, where silk was the fabric of royalty.  Today, most silk comes from cocoons of the domesticated Mulberry silkworm (bred from a species native to Asia) because they are easy to unreel into long continuous strands. The cocoons formed by “wild” species are too tough for this process, so harsher methods are sometimes used.  However, these methods damage the strands, producing a poor-quality silk.  To overcome this challenge to the widespread commercial use of wild cocoons, the researchers developed a new way to loosen the strands without damaging them.

The group found that the surfaces of wild cocoons were coated with a mineral layer and that removing this layer (“demineralizing”) made it easy to unreel the cocoons into long continuous strands with commercial reeling equipment.  These strands were just as long and strong as those from Mulberry silkworm cocoons.  The researchers say that the new method could expand the silk industry to new areas of the world where wild silkworms thrive.

The authors acknowledge funding from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the European Union, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council

15th February 2007
Neurotex Ltd Offers New Approach to Nerve Repair

A new company, Neurotex Ltd., has been established to develop novel silk-based products that have the potential to provide a new generation of nerve repair materials and treatments. To help Neurotex Ltd. carry out its developments, a £250,000 investment has been made by The Kinetique Biomedical Seed Fund.

Neurotex Ltd. is a joint venture company, bringing together the expertise of Professor John Priestley, Head of Neuroscience at Queen Mary’s School of Medicine and Dentistry and the unique silk-based materials technology of Oxford Biomaterials Ltd.

Neurotex Ltd. is developing a range of patented devices for the repair of damaged nerves using a modified wild silk developed by Oxford Biomaterials, called Spidrex.  Initial studies have shown Spidrex to be highly supportive of directed nerve growth with low immunotoxicity.

Professor John Priestley, Scientific Founder of Neurotex expects that the research will lead to treatment for damaged nerves and may eventually lead to treatments for repairing damaged spinal cord.
“For us it’s an ambitious but realistic goal to repair the peripheral nervous system,” says Professor Priestley. “If you damage a peripheral nerve, so long as it has a support to follow, the nerve should regrow and hopefully the nerve injury will repair itself.  If you damage the spinal cord, however, there are lots of things that will try and prevent the regrowth taking place, such as natural inhibitory components.  To repair a damaged spinal cord, we will need different types of tubes and will have to combine other approaches such as stem cells, growth factors or other additives.  So it’s a much longer term goal, but the rewards are potentially much greater.”

Dr Richard Skipper has been appointed Chief Executive Officer of the new company.  Richard has 25 years experience in the marketing and manufacturing of aerospace, telecommunications and medical products, 16 years at board level with multi-national companies with an emphasis on producing medical devices, taking them from concept through to sales.
For further information, please go to the Neurotex website

9 November 2006
Listen to our own Dr David Knight on
BBC Radio 4's The Material World

Notes for Editors
About Oxford Biomaterials Ltd.

Founded in 2002, Oxford Biomaterials Ltd. (OBM) is an Oxford University spin-out company developing Spidrex: an absorbable biomaterial based on Spider silk technology for use in the repair and regeneration of human tissues.  Spidrex is available as both an exceptionally tough, absorbable fibre and a porous, load bearing, tissue scaffold.  Both fibre and scaffold are biocompatible and provide excellent substrates for attachment and growth of human cells. This single, generic technology has multiple market opportunities and, as well as nerve repair, OBM is developing Spidrex for wound management, cardiovascular, and orthopaedic applications.  To learn more about OBM’s Spidrex technology and product development contact us here

About Queen Mary, University of London

Queen Mary is one of the leading Colleges in the federal University of London, with over 11,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students, and an academic and support staff of around 2,600.

Queen Mary has a strong research base with over 80 per cent of research staff working in departments where research is of international or national excellence (RAE 2001).   It has a strong international reputation, with around 20 per cent of students coming from over 100 countries.  The College has 21 academic departments and institutes organised into three sectors: Science and Engineering; Humanities, Social Sciences and Laws; and the School of Medicine and Dentistry.

It has an annual turnover of £175 million, research income worth £43 million, and it generates employment and output worth nearly £400 million to the UK economy each year.
Queen Mary Innovation & Enterprise works to protect and exploit the College's intellectual property and to build successful relationships so that academic knowledge and expertise can be transferred to business and the community.

For more information, please visit the Queen Mary University website.

About The Kinetique Biomedical Seed Fund

The Kinetique Biomedical Seed Fund is managed by Javelin Ventures and is one of the few specialist University Challenge Seed Funds investing in technologies relating to the biomedical sciences - this includes the development of therapeutics, drug delivery systems, diagnostics, devices, biomaterials and IT related to healthcare.  This may be through the creation of spin-out companies that can attract further venture funding, or through developing the technology to the point where it can be licensed to a commercial partner.

Javelin Ventures also manages The Heptagon Fund that provides proof of concept funding for its seven academic members for new technologies in life sciences and healthcare addressing the translation of novel and inventive ideas from fundamental research to commercial demonstration with the aim of leading to soundly based propositions able to attract licensing deals or investment funding.
For more information please visit their website


14th December 2006

Scientists unravel novel spinning secrets

OXFORD BIOMATERIALS LTD. PRESS RELEASE: in print on 14th December 2006

Spiders and silkworms have hit upon the same mechanism for spinning silk.

Collaboration between Dr David Knight of Oxford Biomaterials and a group from Tokyo led by Professor Tetsuo Asakura has revealed new details about the way the silkworm's spinning apparatus works.  Their research has found remarkable similarities in the way silkworms and spiders spin their silks and adds important pieces to the puzzle of commercial silk spinning.

Silk has many well-documented impressive biological properties making it a highly desirable polymer.  Consequently much attention has focused on elucidating how tough fibres are naturally produced with the aim to mimic the process industrially.

Critical to silk production is the nature of the concentrated protein solution (dope) from which the silk thread is drawn and the spinning process itself which turns the dope into a tough insoluble fibre.
The authors' previous studies revealed that both water removal and the application of stretching or shear are important in this process. Stretching acts to align the elongated protein molecules and pulls them together thereby squeezing out water. The combination of these three aspects is important in forming the solid crystalline regions required to make strong and tough silk fibres.

In their paper which will appear in print next week in the journal “Biomacromolecules”, David Knight and his Japanese co-workers have discovered that the stretching process occurs in two stages: an initial drawing process in which the gelled dope is stretched into a thread inside the silkworm’s silk duct and a second stage in which the silk is squeezed while it is pulled through a remarkable structure known as the silk press, a more sophisticated version of the constriction dies used in the drawing of man-made fibres. However, unlike industrial constriction dies, the silkworm’s silk press is able to control the tension it applies to the forming silk thread by contracting or relaxing the muscles attached to it. The authors have used polarizing microscopy to show that both of the drawing stages align the silk molecules.

Crucially the findings in this paper show a remarkable evolutionary convergence in the way that silkworms and spiders form silk threads despite being about as closely related as snails and octopuses. Dr David Knight said, “We looked in detail at what's going on inside the silkworm and discovered that it was very similar to the spinning mechanism of spiders. This remarkable similarity suggests that there is only one way to form a tough silk thread”.

David adds, “Not only is this the way to do it, but it is also revolutionarily different from the way man-made fibres are drawn”.
The findings in this paper could facilitate the development of biomimetic industrial spinning methods.

For more information please contact us via our contacts page


‘Some Observations on the Structure and Function of the Spinning Apparatus in the Silkworm Bombyx mori is printed in the journal Biomacromolecules on 14/12/2006. Web release date for article 29/11/06.

Pictures of the three-dimensional reconstruction of the spinneret and diagrams of the silk duct and silk press are available on request.

Oxford Biomaterials Ltd. (OBM) is an Oxford University spin-out company developing absorbable biomaterials based on silks for use in repair and regeneration of human tissues.



Regenerative Potential of Silk Conduits in Repair of Peripheral Nerve Injury in Adult Rats Biomaterials, January 2012

Wenlong Huang, PhD; Rumina Begum, MBBS; Thomas Barber, MD; Viviana Ibba, PhD; NIcholas Tee, MD; Muzzammil Hussain, MD; Mohammed Arastoo, MSc; Yang Qin, MD; Lesley Robson, PhD; Stephanie Lesage, BSc; Tom Gheysens, PhD; David Knight, PhD; John Priestley

Biomacromolecules, 2011
Wild silk reeling.
Some Observations on the Structure and Function of the Spinning Apparatus in the silkworm Bombyx mori

Asakura, T., Umemura, K., Nakazawa, Y., Hirose, H., Higham, J., Knight, D.P. Biomacromolecules. 2007. 8, 175-181

This paper reveals new details about the way the silkworm's spinning apparatus works. The researchers describe remarkable similarities in the way silkworms and spiders spin their silks. This work adds important pieces to the puzzle of commercial silk spinning.

Toughness of Spider Silk at High and Low Temperatures

Yang Y., Chen, X., Shao, Z., Zhou, P., Porter, D., Knight, D.P., Vollrath, F. Advanced Materials. 2005. 17, 84-88

Testing the mechanical properties of spider silk at a range of temperatures to determine whether spider silk can perform outside the temperature range in which it has evolved. The researchers show that dragline silk from the spider Nephila edulis retains rather exceptional mechanical properties from at least -60°C up to about 100°C. These findings demonstrate the potential usefulness of such a fibre in harsh conditions.
A Method of Spinning Spider-like Silk, the 'Holy Grail' of Bio Materials  
inside : technology, Issue 8, 20 July 2012.  The Technology Partnership plc.
The Leading Solution in Cartilage Repair
inside : technology, Issue 8, 20 July 2012. The Technology Partnership plc.

The Observer, 12 Jan 2013

Tim Adams

Fritz Vollrath's pioneering work with spider's silk promises to deliver huge medical benefits in everything from knee replacements to heart transplants, writes Tim Adams

…Fritz Vollrath: 'Who wouldn't want to work with spiders?' … ?' Web of intrigue: zoologist Fritz Vollrath. Photograph: Andy Hall.  There were more practical reasons, too. Vollrath was a graduate student of neurophysiology when he started looking at webs and spider silks in earnest. "To do any … Fritz Vollrath's pioneering studies of spider's silk promise to deliver huge medical benefits in everything from knee replacements to heart transplants…