Octarine Bio, a synthetic biology company developing new sustainable bio-based ingredients, and Ginkgo Bioworks, which is building a platform for cell programming and biosecurity, announced a multi-stage partnership focused on compounds in the tryptophan pathway, with the objective of 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. Although initially focused on violacein, the collaboration has the potential to expand to other tryptophan-derived compounds, each with their own unique applications.
The vast majority of textiles are still produced with synthetic colors and dyes derived from fossil fuels, a practice that has been linked to negative effects to human health and the environment. According to the United National Environmental Program and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, fabric dyeing and treatment produces about 20% of worldwide wastewater. In Europe, textile consumption has the fourth highest impact on the environment and climate change; it has the third highest impact on water and land use, and the fifth highest impact on raw material use and greenhouse gas emissions, as reported by the European Environment Agency.
Synthetic biology offers a viable alternative to this practice by enabling the development of safer and more innovative colors and dyes, made through microbial fermentation. Octarine Bio’s exceptional proficiency in enzymatic derivatization, which can enable improved production levels and superior properties of these colors, is a key part of Octarine’s technology. Combined with Ginkgo Bioworks’ expertise in strain engineering, a significant opportunity arises for Octarine to introduce new bioactive colors and dyes to the market that address the consumer desires for safer, healthier, and more sustainable alternatives.
“Natural colors 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 colors and dyes that will appeal to consumers and companies worldwide.”
“We are thrilled to work with Ginkgo to improve the bio-based production process for our tryptophan program, focusing on a class of highly sought after natural colors and dyes in difficult to source color spectra,” said Dr. Nethaji Gallage, Co-founder & CEO at Octarine. “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.”