Ginkgo Bioworks acquires Altar and Circularis

adaptive laboratory evolution ALE

Ginkgo Bioworks has announced the acquisition of two biotech companies, Altar, a French firm with a proprietary adaptive evolution platform, and Circularis, which has a proprietary circular RNA and promoter screening platform.

Altar acquisition

A fleet of Altar’s automated adaptive laboratory evolution (ALE) instruments will be integrated into Ginkgo’s Foundry to serve customers across food and beverage, biofuels, biomaterials, cosmetics, animal health and human health applications, among others. Ginkgo has previously collaborated with Altar on customer programs.

Despite the progress in rational genome editing and high-throughput testing of engineered strains over the last decade, it often remains challenging to engineer microorganisms that meet target specifications under industrially relevant conditions due to the complexity and unknowns of the underlying genetics. 

For the development of certain phenotypes, such as those based on improved growth under normally unfavorable conditions, ALE can be a powerful approach. By incorporating Altar’s ALE platform to Ginkgo’s existing strain engineering capabilities, Ginkgo said it expects to be able to routinely engineer those target phenotypes that can be selected for based on their improved growth properties under defined process conditions, such as in the presence of otherwise inhibitory concentrations of a target end product or prohibitively high temperatures.

Selected strains coming out of these ALE-based selections will then be characterized and further validated by Ginkgo’s existing suite of test workflows.  

“As the range of programs we work on continues to expand, it is imperative that we have the best tools in rational design as well as the ability to leverage the inherent diversity and creativity that emerges from evolutionary processes,” said Nikos Reppas, senior director, Foundry Technology at Ginkgo Bioworks. 

“We’re excited to welcome the Altar team to Ginkgo and look forward to integrating the Altar technology into Ginkgo’s suite of offerings so we can better serve existing and future customers.”

Reducing time to market

“We founded Altar to increase the feasibility and reduce time-to-market for bio-manufactured products,” said Simon Trancart, CEO of Altar. 

“We’ve been working with Ginkgo for a few years now, and are thrilled to join the Ginkgo platform as we work to accomplish our mission at an even greater scale by collectively using biology to drive innovation across industries.”

Circularis deal

When circularized, RNA is much longer-lived in cells, improving its robustness as a potential therapeutic modality. The Circularis platform allows ultra-high-throughput screening of promoters and other enhancers. 

Ginkgo said the acquisition will create new solutions across bioproduction, RNA therapeutics, cell therapy, and gene therapy partnerships.

In recent years, Ginkgo has significantly expanded its work in cell and gene therapy, including a program to improve adeno-associated virus (AAV) manufacturing in partnership with Biogen, and a program to develop AAV capsids with altered tropism and immunogenicity in partnership with Selecta Biosciences

The field of nucleic acid therapeutics is a promising novel therapeutic modality, and Ginkgo has worked on programs across the space, including with Moderna and Aldevron, and is actively engaged in improving circular RNA efficacy and manufacturing yields.

The Circularis platform strengthens Ginkgo’s platform for development of cell and gene therapies, providing the capability to rapidly identify novel promoters with appropriate strength and tissue-specificity designed into customer specific delivery modalities.

Leveraging Ginkgo’s ability to explore large numbers of genetic designs, these promoter libraries can be explored in combination with modified therapeutic payloads and capsids to provide gene therapy developers a solution that works across any range of cell or organism models. Similarly, the Circularis platform will give Ginkgo the ability to rapidly identify context-specific promoters for cell therapy applications, such as those that modulate gene expression in the tumor microenvironment.

Technology potential

“Circularis has built an exceptional platform to screen gene expression regulatory elements, a need across the cell and gene therapy space,” said Narendra Maheshri, head of mammalian foundry at Ginkgo Bioworks. 

“We are excited to leverage the strong expertise of the Circularis team to further develop circular RNA methods for therapeutic use, and can’t wait to incorporate this technology into existing and upcoming cell programs across therapeutic applications as well as more broadly.”

“Circularis was founded because we saw a need for better tools to control gene regulation in a range of species. Our team is incredibly proud of what we’ve built, and the opportunity to scale it on the Ginkgo platform means we’re a major step closer to realizing this technology’s potential,” said Mat Falkowski, chief executive officer at Circularis.

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