SynBio startup Ginkgo Bioworks lands $45M to fuel push into pharma

Ginkgo Bioworks has landed $45 million in a Series B round. The money will facilitate a significant scaling up of operations at the synthetic biology pioneer, with an expansion into pharmaceuticals, construction of a second-generation lab and hiring of new staff all in the cards.

Viking Global, one of the investors that helped Moderna Therapeutics pull off its $450 million round, led the financing in Gingko with support from existing backers OS Fund, Y Combinator and Felicis Ventures. The fundraising continues the rapid pace of change at Gingko, which toiled in relative obscurity on U.S. government contracts for years before being thrust into the limelight as the first biotech to join the Y Combinator incubator. A $9 million Series A round followed in March and now a further $45 million has flowed into the company.

Boston, MA-based Ginkgo, which spun out of MIT in 2008, will use some of the money to expand its ability to produce pharmaceuticals. The underlying concepts are the same whether Gingko is making an ingredient for a perfume, probiotic are drug. In each case, the process revolves around software Gingko has created to design organisms. The process of designing, testing and creating the microbes is supported by software and robotics at a facility Gingko has dubbed the "foundry," but biochemistry PhDs have their hands on the tiller.

"We're enabling human designers to design the genomes of these microbes to get them to do things," Ginkgo co-founder Jason Kelley told TechCrunch. Kelley sees this point as a philosophical difference between Ginkgo and some of its rivals in the synthetic biology space, notably Zymergen, which wrapped up a $44 million fundraising of its own last month. For clients, the outcome is more important than the process and Gingko has enjoyed some early successes, such as creating a new version of rose oil for fragrance company Robertet.

Gingko's list of clients reportedly includes Fortune 500 companies and projects covering the creation of sweeteners and organic pesticides. The ambition is to add more pharma companies to the client list, while also hiring a 15 to 20 more staff before the end of the year and stepping up work on the next version of the foundry.

- read the release
- here's TechCrunch's article
- check out Fortune's take
- and Boston Business Journal's piece