Ginkgo raises $290M to fuel synthetic biology expansion

People working at one of Ginkgo Bioworks' facilities (Ginkgo Bioworks)

Ginkgo Bioworks has raised $290 million. The synthetic biology unicorn will use the series E funds to continue building on a cell programming platform it thinks can upend multiple industries.

Funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates joined with Ginkgo’s existing investors to put up the series E funding on the strength of the broad potential of Ginkgo’s technologies. Ginkgo made its name engineering microbes to produce molecules. That core concept has proven to be attractive to companies in a range of industries. 

Boston-based Ginkgo first established its synthetic biology platform in the flavors and fragrances field but had its eye on biopharma from fairly early in its history. The push into biopharma took flight last year when Ginkgo opened a facility focused on the engineering of mammalian cell genomes for use in the research and production of medicines. 

Ginkgo followed up with two deals earlier this year. In May, Ginkgo bought Warp Drive Bio’s genome mining operation, landing an antibiotic discovery partnership with Roche in the process. The next month, Ginkgo bought an $80 million stake in drug developer Synlogic.

The deals are part of a web of activities Ginkgo has initiated to realize the pan-industry potential of its platform. Echoing Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, Ginkgo has moved into multiple sectors through joint ventures, spinoffs and investments, resulting in a business that is simultaneously working with Roche to discover antibiotics and collaborating with Bayer on sustainable agriculture.

That breadth of opportunities has enabled Ginkgo to raise $719 million to date. Ginkgo’s rivals have also pulled in significant sums. Late last year, SoftBank powered Zymergen to a $400 million series C. 

The sizes of the investments reflect the nature of the work. Ginkgo is building its fifth facility and may need to add more capacity as it continues to expand.