€41M for a Rising Star of Synthetic Biology: Ginkgo Bioworks

Once will not hurt, we’ll speak a bit about an inspiring US-based company. A synthetic biology start-up from the worlds biggest biocluster is on its road to success. Shortly after its Series A, Boston-based Ginkgo Bioworks goes on better and raises $45M (€41M). The microbe engineer makes food taste moreish and perfume smell better. And it has big plans to spend the money!

Ginkgo Bioworks was founded in 2008 by the godfather of synthetic biology Tom Knight as well as MIT biological engineer school graduates Jason Kelly, Reshma Shetty, Barry Canton and Austin Che. The company pictures itself as the intersection of industrial design and biology. To produce cultured ingredients such as flavors, fragrances, cosmetics and sweeteners, Ginkgo has its proprietary software to design customized microbes.  This happens in Biowork1, the company’s Boston-based ‘foundry’, in which Ginkgos in-built robotics streamline the design, construction, and testing of engineered organisms.

One of Ginkgo Bioworks’ test stations.

Ginkgo currently designs more than 20 stated organisms for sundry customers including Fortune 500 companies. Among these are organic pesticides for an agriculture company, sweeteners for a beverage company and rose oils for the French fragrance company Robertet.

A good start, but the company has big plans for the future. Expansions into pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and nutrition are scheduled; new additional employees should be hired and besides its 18,000 square foot (1,7km²) Biowork1, a sister foundry, Biowork2 is already under development. If it opens as expected in 2017, the company’s space will be 5 times as big.

Ginkgo is not alone with its high hopes. Only four months after a first $9M (€8.1M) fundraising, the start-up cashed in further $45M (€41M) in a Series B round, led by Viking Global which contributor of the largest VC-Investment ever made in a Biotech company. Further investors included OS Fund, Felicis Ventures, and Y Combinator. The latter is an American business incubator that jumped on the Biotech bandwagon thanks to Ginkgo.

The money raised demonstrates the potential of Ginko’s approach. The company starts with the production of fragrances in custom-tailored yeast, but with advanced technology and progressing insights, synthetic biology provides unlimited scopes of application and the company is just starting to explore the field. Let’s see if the Boston-born can establish itself as a leader in this exciting industry.

Explore other topics: Ginkgo BioworksSynthetic biology

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