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Partners taking fermentation route to new dyes

Collaboration has the potential to expand to other tryptophan-derived compounds, each with their own unique applications.

11th May 2023

Innovation in Textiles
 |  Denmark & USA

Clothing/​Footwear, Sustainable

The vast majority of textiles are still produced with synthetic colours and dyes but microbial fermentation offers a viable alternative by enabling the development of safer products.

Danish synthetic biology company Octarine Bio is now working with Boston-based Ginkgo Bioworks on the development of compounds in the tryptophan pathway and initially on engineering a strain for producing violacein and its derivatives – a naturally occurring bis-indole pigment with potent bioactive properties, including anti-microbial, anti-oxidant, and UV protective properties.

Octarine Bio’s enzymatic derivatization can enable improved production levels and combined with Ginkgo expertise in strain engineering, provides a significant opportunity for Octarine to introduce new bioactive colours and dyes to the market that address the consumer desire for safer, healthier and more sustainable alternatives to synthetics.

“Natural colours and dyes constitute a significant and expanding market, especially given the heightened awareness from companies and the concerns of consumers about the harmful effects of conventional manufacturing processes,” said Ena Cratsenburg, chief business officer at Ginkgo Bioworks. “This is a robust opportunity to contribute to the sustainability of the fashion industry, and we are excited to be working with Octarine as we aim to produce a new class of safer, high-performing colours and dyes that will appeal to consumers and companies worldwide.”

“We see tremendous potential to apply these natural pigments as bio-based dyes, one of the fastest growing categories in the global textile market, and look forward to leveraging the Ginkgo platform to accelerate its development,” added Dr Nethaji Gallage, co-founder and CEO at Octarine.

Ginkgo is establishing a leading platform for cell programming, providing flexible, end-to-end services that solve challenges for organisations across diverse markets – from food and agriculture to pharmaceuticals and industrial and speciality chemicals. Its biosecurity and public health unit, Concentric, is building global infrastructure for biosecurity to empower governments, communities and public health leaders to prevent, detect and respond to a wide variety of biological threats.

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