Call it CSI: Fashion.
As companies look to shore up the purity of their supply chains and become as transparent as possible, Applied DNA Sciences is providing a virtual guarantee on material reliability and accuracy.
That’s because ADNAS supplies DNA tagging and testing of materials such as cotton and synthetic fiber that by its nature provides brands and customers as close to 100 percent assurance of accuracy as possible.
MeiLin Wan, vice president of textile
sales, explained that ADNAS uses analytical methods to examine DNA, either the internal DNA in a product or DNA the company creates in what it calls “tags or signatures” that it applies to products.
All DNA that ADNAS uses is botanically derived and has no false positives or negatives in its testing, Wan noted.
The lab uses DNA in lots of ways, including in consumer products, and in government procurement for the Department of Defense to guard against counterfeiting, notably in the area of marking electronic microcircuits. It’s also used in industrial materials such as synthetic textiles in automotive applications, like airbags and brake pads.
Additionally, ADNAS technology can help protect assets and recover stolen or lost items, such as watches and rings.
The 10-year-old company started in crime-solving forensic evidence working with Scotland Yard in the U.K., and in Sweden tagging money for transport, which has resulted in hundreds of criminal convictions.
ADNAS has still another avenue of work, with the U.S. and U.K. recently passing laws prohibiting conflict materials — like diamonds or cotton made with child or prison labor.
“It all comes down to the product claims,” said John Shearman, executive director of marketing at ADNAS. “Brands want to be more transparent with consumers and are relying on the supply chain and their manufacturers to produce a product to their [specifications]. We feel our technology allows that transparency to happen in the supply chain.”
Shearman recently introduced the company’s new SigNature T DNA technology to cotton gins in Texas. Also on tap in Arkansas and California, the technology involves the launch of a fully automated DNA Transfer System equipped with real-time monitoring, and security and data capture, ensuring efficient and consistent DNA tagging of cotton fibers during the ginning process. SigNature T comprises growers, ginners and its merchant, Louis Dreyfus, to prepare and install the technology for pima and upland cotton.
Used in tandem with the real-time SigNify On-Site DNA verification system, the technology establishes authenticity and integrity at the beginning of the cotton supply chain.
The DNA solution is applied to the cotton at the ginning stage binding to the raw cotton fiber with no impact on performance or quality of materials, Shearman explained.
The new DNA Transfer Systems are designed to handle higher volumes of SigNature T tagging, including the previously announced increase of 50 million pounds of HomeGrown Lonestar and 10 million pounds of HomeGrown Acala upland cottons.
“We provide certainty to a very complex textile supply chain,” said James Hayward, president and chief executive officer of ADNAS, noting the end-to-end platform “enables users to stay one step ahead. In just one DNA tagging campaign, entire companies and countries can be certain that their reputations for quality, integrity and sustainability are preserved, from the source all the way to the shelf.”
ADNAS has marked 100 million pounds of cotton in the supply chain so far.
Track-and-trace continues through the supply chain, with fiber, yarn and fabric sample genotyping, and SigNature T DNA tagging and authentication managed through the DigitalDNA textiles portal.
Hayward explained that taking a forensic and data-driven approach for assuring quality and label compliance will continue to reduce reliance on paper documentation, which often is not sufficient to prove origin or to substantiate label claims. In the end, retailers, manufacturers and consumers will know that the final product comes from the same cotton that left the gin at the beginning of the supply chain.
“Farmers and ginners are working to make the purest cotton in the U.S. and they don’t want to see it being blended with Uzbeki cotton,” Sherman added, referring to cotton from Uzbekistan that is banned in the U.S. because farmers there have been found to use child labor in harvesting.
Many companies have taken a pledge not to use Uzbeki cotton in their products, but ADNAS executives said this does not guarantee that it won’t find its way through the supply chain.
“We can establish a chain of custody — fiber to yarn to fabric to finished goods — to assure the purity and security of a product,” Shearman added.
In June, ADNAS partnered with Palmetto Synthetics, a maker of specialty synthetic fiber, and Techmer PM, a material-design company, to launch the SigNature DNA system for synthetic fibers.
The system will expand Applied DNA Sciences’ presence in the athletic apparel industry and automotive textile category.
Palmetto Synthetics fiber has many uses, but is best known in apparel, automotive and industrial applications. Palmetto’s fiber is also used in polyester and nylon fabrics for footwear and performance apparel, and the company also produces postconsumer recycled fibers.
Recently in Clinton, Tenn., SigNature DNA molecular tags were attached to Techmer PM polyester formulations and supplied to Palmetto, which used them to make polyester fiber. The first stage tagged five million pounds of PET fiber, which was converted into synthetic fabrics. The process will be scaled up to many millions of pounds over the next year.
“We feel this is a beginning of a revolution in textiles because there’s no technology out there that’s doing anything on protecting the product itself,” Wan said. “Everything else has been a paper document. This is now a science that can be brought into the supply chain.”
Shearman added. “Brands want to be able to tell the story that what they are doing is fully traceable along the supply chain and that it’s done responsibly and sustainably.”
ADNAS is based in Stony Brook, N.Y., in a 30,000-square-foot headquarters with manufacturing and laboratory facilities.
During a tour of the labs, Shearman and Wan explained the chain of custody involved in making sure the process is exact and uncontaminated, and product is seen from raw and ginned to yarn and finished goods.
A scientist showed how the Genetic Analyzer separates the DNA and analyzes it down to extreme microscopic levels.
“DNA marking is a very distinct claim that brings certainty to the market that’s different from everything else out there,” Hayward said. “We certainly think it’s the best way to prove and assure the pureness of the supply chain. We also see it being addressable to the consumer.”
Hayward, who founded the company, is also a trustee of Stony Brook University, where ADNAS has its facilities. Stony Brook has $450 million to $500 million annual sponsored research in DNA, and ADNAS collaborates with faculty on campus, with some serving on its board, and shares common services and tools.
Hayward earned a doctorate in molecular biology and biophysics from Stony Brook, and has more than 20 years of experience in the biotechnology, pharmaceutical, life sciences and consumer products industries. He was a founding principal and research director of Europe’s first liposome company, Biocompatibles Ltd. From 1984 to 1989, he served as director of research worldwide at the Esteé Lauder Cos. Inc.
A publicly traded company, ADNAS had revenue of $650,000 on a loss of $3.37 million in the third quarter ended June 30. For the nine months, the company generated revenue of $2.55 million on a loss of $9.79 million.
Hayward noted that ADNAS also works with DNA scientists at nearby Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Stony Brook University, Cold Spring Harbor Labs and Brookhaven National Laboratory together form the Long Island Bioscience Hub, he said, “So we’re right in the middle of a corridor of great DNA knowhow.