Ellis Developments Limited

Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

Spider-Like Silks

We have been working with Oxford Biomaterials Ltd, and the Department of Zoology at the University of Oxford to develop spider-like silks for a range of applications.

Although there is much incorrect information disseminated in the popular press about such silks, they have extremely useful properties when used as a biological material,

Oxford Biomaterials developed Spidrex, an entirely new biomaterial modelled on spider silk. It is derived from silk fibroins - large polypeptides which confer excellent mechanical properties on Spidrex based materials and which are naturally degraded by the body over time.

Spidrex is manufactured as both a regenerated fibroin matrix and a tough fibre, as well as a composite of the two. This variety of forms provides great flexibility in the range of application which Spidrex can be used for, from complex woven textile based devices to porous protein sponges.

From this adaptable technology platform, Oxford Biomaterials are pursuing product development in the areas of nerve repair, wound closure, cartilage repair and bone graft materials.

We have used one of our specially treated embroidered fibre matrices as a scaffold on which to print cells using ink-jet printers. The cells are viable after printing, and can potentially be used to develop three dimensional cellular structures ultimately for implantation as more complex tissue structures. There is much work still to be carried out, and we would welcome enquiries.

  Julian Ellis will be delighted to hear from you.

Telephone on +44 (0) 7976  425899

email: info@ellisdev.co.uk

We are based at Far Close, Rolleston Road, Fiskerton, Southwell, Nottinghamshire, NG25 0UJ, United Kingdom

Spider-like Silks for Surgical Implants

Health Technology Devices Programme Project 231



Our collaboration addressed the clinical need to develop sophisticated resorbable sutures to improve current surgical procedure and patient satisfaction particularly in the field of internal suturing.

The project built on ongoing collaborative work between Oxford Biomaterials Limited, Oxford University, Pearsalls Limited and Ellis Developments Limited. We worked to develop a suture thread from Oxford Biomaterials' remarkable fibre, Spidrex® which has mechanical properties similar to spider’s silk. Further, it provides an excellent substrate for mammalian cell adhesion, while sequence characteristics make it chemically malleable and initial trials show that it is biocompatible and can be rendered pyrogen-free. We have evidence that like spider silk and unlike conventional medical silk, it will be resorbable over a period of months. Spidrex® fibres are being braided into a range of suture threads by Pearsalls, who have over a century of expertise in this area and the Queen’s Award for Export Achievement. Our suture will provide surgeons with a mechanically reliable means of wound closure without the necessity of a follow up intervention for suture removal. Professor Sir Norman Williams, an eminent abdominal surgeon with an interest in new materials, and Dr. Mike Grahn of Queen Mary’s University, London, will be consulted on all aspects of suture design. The world market for a resorbable suture is estimated at $100 million, as concerns over prion disease from collagen-based sutures and adverse patient reactions from PLLA sutures have resulted in product withdrawal.

These sutures will conform to the NHS plan which emphasizes improving patient satisfaction and increasing efficiency in the healthcare system. Further, the Foresight Programme has criticised the lack of new materials specifically produced for the surgical implant market, and it is anticipated that if Spidrex® is successful as a suture material, it will provide a generic material for the development of other highly novel, slowly resorbable implantable devices. The potential saving to the NHS is best measured in healthcare professionals’ time, and hospital bed occupancy. Our devices would effectively reduce the number of surgical procedures and decrease patient recovery time.


·  Spinox Ltd

·  University of Oxford

·  Pearsalls Ltd

·  Ellis Developments Ltd

·  Queen Mary University of London

Grant Awarded   £107,314

Duration   2 years