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DNA sequencing for sustainable new dyes

Company has ambitions to dye 15% of the world’s clothes by 2030.

20th November 2023

Innovation in Textiles
 |  Norwich, United Kingdom

Clothing/​Footwear, Sustainable

Colorifix was a finalist in this year’s Earthshot Prize, narrowly missing out in claiming a £1 million award for its development of a unique fabric-dyeing process.

The Colorifix process uses the DNA codes for colours found in nature and teaches microbes to recreate them as natural dyes. It begins with Colorifix identifying a colour created naturally by an animal, plant or microbe and then, using DNA sequencing, identifying where the colour is coded in the genetics of the organism. The DNA code is then translated into engineered microorganisms, enabling Colorifix to produce the pigment – just as it is made in nature – and transfer it to fabrics.

The idea originated from the work of founders Jim Ajioka, and Orr Yarkoni on the development of tools for molecular genome analysis at Cambridge University. While testing a biosensor for assessing the arsenic contamination of drinking water in Nepal, the two learned about the enormously destructive impact of dyeing processes on water. Together they realised that instead of just monitoring contamination, they could devise a solution – a sustainable way to dye textiles using synthetic biology.

Colorifix natural dyes cut chemical pollution by 80%, and when applied to fabrics require far fewer rinses than synthetic dyes, ultimately saving vast quantities of water. Already gaining traction in the fashion industry, Colorifix has ambitions to dye 15% of the world’s clothes by 2030, helping big manufacturers make good on their sustainability targets.

The company has already secured £18 million in investment to support expansion further into Europe and Asia and implement its technology into the supply chains of several leading players in the global fashion industry.


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