Kazuhide Sekiyama

Inventor and President of Spiber Inc.

Suppleness and steely toughness—two seemingly incompatible attributes—describe a supermaterial many have dreamed of. Now Kazuhide Sekiyama and Spiber Inc. have created one, in the form of synthetic spider silk. To do that, Spiber synthesized spider genes related to silk and manipulated the amino acid sequences. Because spider silk can be produced through low-energy microbial fermentation, the process also has minimal impact on the environment. Kazuhide established Spiber with fellow Keio University graduate students in 2007, racing to be the first to spin out this technology. The company subsequently earned a prize in 2010 for “Outstanding Contributions to Science and Technology (NISTEP scientists)” from MEXT’s National Institute of Science and Technology Policy Research, and has an excellent reputation both in Japan and abroad. Perhaps an airplane with a frame made of spider silk fibers is in our not-so-distant future.

Changing the world with spider webs