Adidas taps German biotech firm for bioinspired, biodegradable sneakers


In Germany, synthetic biology firm AMSilk is mimicking spider silk to produce materials for apparel, including biodegradable Adidas sneakers.

CEO Jens Klein  tells that the company, which produces a protein similar to spider silk precursors in bioreactors, is looking to improve the environmental footprint of textiles manufacturing.

“To create a nylon fiber, you have to drill crude oil out of the earth,” he says. “Then it can be recycled, but it costs a lot of water and energy to depolymerize and polymerize. From my point of view, there are a lot of resources being used in recycling. A material like ours, which is sustainable from the very beginning and biodegrades by the end of its lifetime, is the one and only solution we should look for in the future.”

AMSilk’s proteins are already being used in Adidas running shoes. Launched in 2016, the shoes biodegrade 36 hours after a special enzyme is applied.

“Someone who produces hundreds of millions of a product, like Adidas’ shoes, cannot change this process completely overnight,” Klein adds. “But the goal is to define a clear path to where you want to go and move in that direction.”

AMSilk’s proteins can also be found in cosmetics, implants, and medical devices.