On October 23, Synthego announced a $110 million Series C financing round led by Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund with additional investment from existing investors 8VC and Menlo Ventures. The deal brings Synthego’s total funding to $166 million and marks one of the biggest synthetic biology capital raises in what has already been a record funding year for the industry.
Synthego’s funding round is more than just another anecdote that investors are bullish on synthetic biology. It validates an important trend in the industry. Synthego is a leading proponent of making full-stack genome engineering broadly accessible to researchers. Synthego says this will drastically decrease the cost of gene therapies and bring life-changing treatments to market faster. The $110 million capital raise, on the heels of the company’s recent rapid growth, indicates that investors and researchers believe in this approach.
Gene editing has the power to treat millions of people afflicted with some of the most devastating disorders. But cell and gene therapies are difficult to develop, have limited reach, and are priced at hundreds of thousands of dollars. Synthego CEO Paul Dabrowski wants to change the system and give everyone — not just the wealthy — access to cures. He foresees a day in the not-too-distant future when personalized gene therapies cost $1K. “Our vision,” he says, “is a future where cell and gene therapies are ultimately as accessible as vaccines, so that everyone can benefit from next-generation cures.”
Right now that vision is focused on the company’s Engineered Cells and CRISPRevolution product lines, which bring clinical-grade CRISPR capabilities to labs that might not have the capacity in-house. Synthego plans to use its new funding to grow its manufacturing abilities for these successful product lines while expanding its presence in Europe and Asia. Going forward, the company plans to continue extending its platform to offer access to new capabilities as well.
For researchers at pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies or universities, Synthego’s sales pitch is straightforward: Instead of spending weeks learning how to put together a robust CRISPR workflow, let Synthego do the grunt work while you focus on defining your CRISPR strategy to bring new therapeutics to market more quickly. This can be especially attractive for small labs that still rely on older technologies such as RNAi.
So far, the message has been well received. Synthego’s customers include the top 25 biological and biomedical research institutions and the top 10 biopharma companies. In the past year, Synthego has tripled production capacity, increased revenue by 600 percent year-over-year, and added thousands of customers in over thirty countries.
Synthego has been called the Amazon of genome engineering. Researchers simply log on to its design portal, choose the organism they want to edit, and specify the gene they want to knock out. The design portal uses machine learning to help them select the right synthetic single guide RNA (sgRNA) for the job. Synthego’s robotic lab then manufactures the sgRNA to guaranteed standards of quality. Researchers can purchase pools of edited cells through Engineered Cells or, alternatively, do-it-yourselfers can order custom-made CRISPR enzymes directly through CRISPRevolution. Either way, they save weeks of turnaround time and the results are guaranteed.
As Synthego grows its product offerings, it continues to build its corporate leadership as well. In conjunction with the most recent financing, Dr. Matthew Porteus, Stanford University Associate Professor and genome engineering pioneer, will join the company’s already high-octane Scientific Advisory Board, which includes Optum CEO Sir Andrew Witty and CRISPR co-inventor Dr. Jennifer Doudna.
Synthego’s success at raising significant capital, while delivering impressive performance for its customers, is another indication that the synthetic biology stack is becoming more broadly available at lower cost. The $1K gene therapy will not happen tomorrow, but the ecosystem to make it possible is being built right now. Stay tuned.