Ginkgo Bioworks was founded in 2009 by scientists at MIT and is located in Boston, Massachusetts. Ginkgo was co-founded by Tom Knight, synthetic biologist and former computer science research scientist at MIT; Harvard geneticist George Church; biotechnologist Craig Venter; and four MIT biological engineering graduate students, including Ginkgo’s CEO Jason Kelly. Ginkgo Bioworks is an analytics company that designs organisms for customers in a range of industries. It is the self-proclaimed "Organism Company."
Ginkgo Bioworks designs microbes in analytical labs it calls synthetic biology foundries, which comprise software and hardware tools that allow for rapid prototyping and high-throughput screening. Several publicly-stated products include chemical intermediates, flavors, and fragrances, as well as microbes that provide health benefits to the human gut microbiome and agricultural crop root microbiomes.
Gingko uses automation to make genetic changes that produce organisms with useful properties. The company uses Python code to pull out sequences that might produce a gene to make a desired product. Robots are used to print out and assemble the DNA and insert them into bacteria or yeast. The bacteria and yeast strains are tested for fitness, efficiency, and yield. Data from this process is captured and used to build design principles to make future engineering of organisms more efficient. With automated robots, one Ginkgo operator can perform around 1000 DNA extractions in a day, compared with about 24 by one graduate student.
Ginkgo Bioworks specializes in creating tools for improving cultured ingredients, high-throughput strain improvement, and enzymes design. Cultured ingredients are made by yeast fermentation, and the yeast can be made to produce compounds for use as flavors, fragrances, food ingredients, cosmetics, and more.
High-throughput strain improvement is the next step after figuring out how to make cultured ingredients. Strain improvement seeks to increase efficiency, reduce cost, and improve the sustainability of products made by custom organisms. Enzyme design looks for ways to either use existing enzymes for other purposes, or looks for ways the make enzymes do their job better. Enzymes act as catalysts that speed up biochemical reactions. Examples of the industrial use of enzymes include cheesemaking, pharmaceutical production, and clothing manufacturing.
BioworksS1 was the world's first organism foundry capable of complete automation of organism strain engineering. The foundry can perform up to 15,000 automated lab tasks per month allowing genetic engineers at Ginkgo Bioworks to test thousands of new organism designs every month without the need to perform the majority of repetitive lab work.
Bioworks2 is an upgraded version of BIOWORKS1 that is twice as big. It provides a 6X productivity improvement on the original BioworksS1 foundry through more efficient integration and miniaturization of equipment.
Bioworks3 opened in 2017 as a foundry for prototyping and scaling engineered organisms. The expansion was supported by their Series D round of funding. Bioworks3 expects to accelerate the scaling of existing projects and support it agricultural products through its partnership with Bayer.
Ginkgo opened its Bioworks 4 foundry for engineered mammalian cells in 2018. Their mouse, hamster and human cells can be used to make biomolecules such as antibodies and proteins. The company also prepares cells that will be used as the drug, such as in the case for cancer immunotherapies. The company plans to enable small biotech startups to investigate leads without incurring large costs, and even operate lab-free, similar to how tech companies rely on cloud than building their own server farm.
In its early years, the company was supported primarily through governments grants. Working on a variety of projects with different government agencies, such as the national science foundation and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), before gaining access to venture capital funding in the summer of 2014.
Department of Health and Human Services
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Department of Defense
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Department of Defense
National Science Foundation
National Science Foundation
Ginkgo Bioworks had a pre-money evaluation of $250 million and raised $45 million on July 23rd, 2015 during their series B funding. Investors include: Viking Global Investors, OS Fund, Felicis Ventures, and 11.2 Capital.
Ginkgo Bioworks had pre-money evaluation of $350 million before receiving $100 million in its series C funding round on June 8th, 2016. The funding came from a number of old and new investors including: Y Combinator, Viking Global Investors, Senator Investment Group, Baillie Gifford, and Allen & Company.
On December 14th, 2017 Ginkgo Bioworks completed its series D funding round. The company had a pre-money valuation of $725 million and gained an additional $275 million dollars in venture capital. The $275 million came from Viking Global Investors, Y Combinator's Continuity Fund, Cascade Investment, and Bill Gates. Ginkgo Bioworks is using the series D funding to build a BioworksS3 at its headquarters in Boston and hire an additional employees.
On June 29th, 2016 Ginkgo Bioworks and Amyris entered into a collaboration agreement and announced their intention to partner to commercialize up to 70 cultured ingredients. The partnership was entered into in November 2017. Ginkgo Bioworks agreed to pay up to $20 million in technology access fees to Amyris. It paid $15 million upfront in 2016, but disputes resulted in the final $5 million never being paid. The pair continue to collaborate on "limited research and development", although Amyris hasn't recorded revenue from Gingko Bioworks since the initial upfront payment in 2016.
All of the founders of Ginkgo Bioworks created an affiliate, Stegodon Corporation, to provide and assume certain debt notes to Amyris while keeping the debt off Ginkgo Bioworks' books. Amyris' failure to pay debts at certain maturity dates has resulted in Stegodon Corporation receiving certain patents from the company as collateral, several of which it has paid to upkeep with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, proving that Stegodon Corporation is actively managed. Ginkgo Bioworks hasn't commented publicly on the existence of Stegodon Corporation or the affiliate's purpose. On June 29th, 2018, Amyris secured a $35 million loan to repay all amounts owed to Stegodon Corporation.
On September 23rd, 2016, Ginkgo Bioworks announced a partnership with Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM) to design organisms capable of producing cultured ingredients for use in agricultural processing and food ingredient industries. ADM hopes to help Ginkgo Bioworks create new organisms that reduce cost and increase the sustainability of their agricultural processing and food ingredient business. ADM plans on using Ginkgo Bioworks for solving problems faced by its customers through providing novel ingredient production and formulation processes.
On March 20th, 2018, Ginkgo Bioworks announced it had finalized a previously-announced joint venture with the agriscience business of Bayer, which will be called Joyn Bio. The joint venture will focus on designing soil microbes to improve the root system microbiomes of agricultural crops, specifically providing nitrogen fixation to reduce the need for synthetic fertilizer applications. Joyn Bio is similar to the $600 million joint venture between Monsanto and Novozymes called the BioAg Alliance, which commercialized its first products in December 2016 after conducting years of field testing. Monsanto is now a part of Bayer.
On September 22nd, 2016, Ginkgo Bioworks announced a partnership with Cargill to improve industrial fermentation processes.
In 2019 Ginkgo entered a $100 million partnership with Cronos Group, the leading Canadian cannabis company. The partnership is for the economically sustainable production of cultured cannabinoids.
On September 29th, 2016, Ginko Bioworks announced a partnership with Genomatica. The companies will be focusing on scaling and commercializing the intermediate and speciality chemical production of organisms made by Ginkgo Bioworks. Genomatica designs and improves industrial process of bio-manufacturing by creating economic and technical solutions to problems faced within the bio-manufacturing industry. The goal of this partnership is for both companies to work together create a unified offer for the market that provides organism design and high volume manufacturing capacity.
On October 19th, 2016, Ginkgo Bioworks announced a partnership with Prospect Bio to create a new biosensor to improve the speed and lower the cost of organism prototyping for new strain development. The biosensor under development will make the process of organism screening (testing for a desired trait) faster. Organism screening is one of the slowest processes of the design, build, test system Ginkgo Bioworks uses for organism development. Normally, each organism created by Ginkgo Bioworks has to be screened individually. A biosensor allows for the screening of many organisms at one time. Ginkgo Bioworks is hoping for a forty-fold decrease in the cost of screening and increase the speed of creating commercial ready organisms.
On December 8th, 2017, Ginkgo Bioworks and Synlogic announced a collaboration to engineer microbes for probiotic and gut-microbiome-based medicines.
On January 20th, 2017 Ginkgo Bioworks announced that it had acquired Gen9 — a company specializing in DNA synthesis. Ginkgo Bioworks previously contracted Gen9 to deliver 300 million base pairs in 2017, making Ginkgo Bioworks Gen9's biggest customer prior to the acquisition.
Ginkgo Bioworks CEO Jason Kelly said of acquiring Gen9:
"Our mission is to make biology easier to engineer and through that to enable our customers to grow better products. Having Gen9’s synthesis and assembly technology available to our customers is a valuable addition to our foundries, allowing us to further speed up the process of organism design".
Motif ingredients is a food ingredients company spun out of Ginkgo which supplies ingredients that can be customized to mimic flavors or textures of those found in protein products such as beef and dairy and is aimed at the plant-based food business.
Patrick Boyle, Reshma P. Shetty
Jeffrey C. Way, Joseph H. Davis
Reshma Shetty, Thomas F. Knight Jr., Randall D. Rettberg
Curt R. Fischer, Austin J. Che, Reshma P. Shetty, Jason R. Kelly
Ginkgo Bioworks will offer to program cells for YC companies in exchange for equity.
Ginkgo’s team used dried specimens of Hibiscadelphus wilderianus from the Harvard University Herbaria. Working with University of California, Santa Cruz, paleogenomicist, Beth Shapiro, they isolated and decoded the ancient DNA and used it to reconstruct ancestral enzymes to produce terpene molecules in yeast. Olfactory artist Sissel Tolaas mixed and matched the odor molecules into pleasant-smelling arrangements.
An upgraded version of BIOWORKS1 that is twice as big, and offers a 6X productivity improvement compared to BioworksS1 through better integration and miniaturization of equipment.
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Documentaries, videos and podcasts
"Biology by Design: Engineering organisms" by Patrick Boyle: Ginko Bioworks at NCC 2016
December 14, 2016
Changing Gene Synthesis: Gen9 and Ginkgo Bioworks Partnership
November 16th, 2016
Meet Ginko Bioworks
September 16, 2010
Rapid Organism Prototyping
Rose Oil From Yeast
- Synthetic biologyInterdisciplinary branch of biology and engineering, applying multiple disciplines to build artificial biological systems for research, engineering, and medical applications.
- GeneticsScience of genes, heredity, and variation in living organisms.
- BiotechnologyBiotechnology can refer to the application of science and technology to living organisms or the use of living organisms, their parts, products or models thereof to solve a problem, produce knowledge or produce goods and services. Biotechnology may involve the alteration of living or non-living materials.
- Genetically modified organismOrganisms whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering methods specifically
- CompanyA company, abbreviated as "Co." within a company name, is a legal entity made up of an association of people, be they natural, legal, or a mixture of both, for carrying on a commercial or industrial enterprise.
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