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Forbes Highlights EntoGenetics

EntoGenetics, a Charlotte biotechnology company started with the help of a $25,000 loan from the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, is worming its way into a high-fiber profile.

It was featured in the financial publication Forbes as one of the top 10 "Breakout Technology" firms, thanks to its technology that's been turning North Carolina's textile industry into high-interest water-cooler chatter.

The firm, founded by biochemist and geneticist David Brigham, Ph.D., found a way to genetically engineer a spider's silk-producing gene into silkworms. Though spider silk has long been known as the ultimate textile target, spiders just haven't been willing to be domesticated and trained to give up the huge amounts of silk proffered by silkworms.

Now that the twain have met, and silkworms are able to exude prolific quantities of spider silk, EntoGenetics has a corner on a silk that's five times stronger than steel, two times stronger and ten times more elastic than Kevlar.

That means military applications such as bulletproof vests, ropes and parachutes are likely spinoffs of this worm-made improvement on man-made fabrics.

EntoGenetics also won last year's Duke University Start-Up Challenge and was a finalist in the last Five Ventures competition in Charlotte.