Ginkgo Bioworks is a biotechnology company using machine learning techniques and lab automation to engineer microorganisms as a service.
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.
High throughputHigh-throughput strain improvement is the next step after figuring out how to make cultured ingredients. Strain improvement seeks to increase efficiency, reducesreduce cost, and improve the sustainability of 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. Yeast fermentation to produce perfume scents.
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.
November 20, 2020
In 2019 Ginkgo entered a $100 million partnership with Cronos GroupCronos Group, the leading Canadian cannabis company. The partnership is for the economically sustainable production of cultured cannabinoids.