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Ginkgo Bioworks Makes 300 Million Base Pair Deal With Gen9

Ginkgo Bioworks has just entered an agreement to purchase 300 million base pairs of synthetic DNA from Gen9. This truly monumental quantity of synthetic DNA is the largest deal that has been struck under Gen9’s recently-launched multiplex axis partnership (MAP) program, as well as a considerable fraction of the world’s total synthetic DNA capacity.

CEO of Ginkgo Bioworks Jason Kelly welcomed the partnership and pointed to Gen9’s proficiency in delivering long-length DNA constructs, stating that: “Long pieces of DNA are essential to metabolic engineering, and Gen9 is a leader in building large constructs. We’re delighted to work with Gen9 on this unprecedented order of pathway-length DNA synthesis.”

Gen9’s MAP Program is Picking up Speed

The Ginkgo-Gen9 agreement is further evidence of the fact that the latter’s multiplex axis partnership (MAP) program, launched in February 2016, is really taking off. Gen9’s flagship alliance under the program was established in April with the enzyme modeling and design company Arzeda. More recently Gen9 has moved on to reach deals with manufacturer of high value bio-based chemicals Amyris, and now, Ginkgo.

Gen9’s MAP program is supported by new software and biochemistry developments in the company’s highly proprietary BioFab® platform. Gen9 founders have promised that the latest generation of their silicon chip-based technology will scale up the global synthetic DNA production capacity by orders of magnitude. As Gen9 continues to advance the reality of scalable, commercializable DNA synthesis, CEO Kevin Munnelly expressed his confidence in Gen9’s power to be a transformative force in not only the synthetic biology industry but the world at large: “Engineering with biology is driving innovations that will solve some of the biggest challenges we face in the world today. As market demand for large enzyme, pathway, and organism engineering projects grows at a dramatic pace, Gen9 will provide the DNA to fuel those projects.”

Elizabeth Nickerson, Gen9
Elizabeth Nickerson, ‎Senior Manager of Product Applications of Gen9, announces a new online ordering platform for custom genes at SynBioBeta London 2015.

Ginkgo is Diversifying its DNA Suppliers

Ginkgo Bioworks is quickly making the move to completely outsource all of its DNA synthesis needs to other players. With this deal, Ginkgo Bioworks’ apparent demand for synthetic DNA to support its organism prototyping and design activities is taking another huge jump. In November of 2015, Ginkgo established a partnership with the synthetic DNA powerhouse Twist Bioscience. The two companies’ then-unprecedented supply agreement for 100 million base pairs drew attention for its magnitude. Ginkgo has gone on to expand its partnership with Twist, recently inking a deal for an additional 300 million base pairs to be supplied by the end of 2017. Twist, however, currently only supplies high-throughput quantities of genes up to 1800 base pairs in length.  With Gen9 beginning to corner the niche for affordable long-length constructs, it makes sense that Ginkgo has turned to them to supply the other half of its synthetic DNA needs. What is certain is that this deal with Ginkgo is strong evidence that Gen9 is developing a powerful hold on the market for high throughput long synthetic DNA constructs.

Competition Builds in the Gene Synthesis Market Fuels Industry Growth

Gen9 has emerged as a clear leader in the market for synthetic DNA by reducing the cost of commercialized DNA synthesis. The company is capable of producing constructs at unheard-of prices as low as $0.03 per base pair. Even as Gen9 undercuts by a wide margin the prices of their competitors in the market for large synthetic DNA constructs, the company believes that they can continue to drive down the price of their DNA by further developing their BioFab® platform. If successful, they will undoubtedly enable more supply agreements on the order of their recent deal with Ginkgo.

The unprecedented deals with Gen9 and Twist together represent a whopping 60% of the total market for synthetic DNA in 2015.

These astounding multi-hundred-million base pair partnerships are being announced on the tail of the news that Gen9 and Twist’s biggest competitor in the gene synthesis market, New Jersey and Nanjing-based GenScript, has completed an initial public offering of $67.2 million in Hong Kong. Clearly the once-vacant market space for genes and even larger DNA constructs is rapidly filling up with a number of competitors. As a few companies emerge as forerunners, it will be interesting to observe how their mounting partnerships play out and product offerings unfold.


Christine Stevenson

Christine Stevenson is a freelance science writer and adjunct professor of biology at the Maricopa Community Colleges in the Phoenix metropolitan area. She holds an M.S. in Biology from Arizona State University and has a background in both wet lab research and venture capital consulting. She lives in Tempe, AZ with her dogs, cats, chickens, and goat.

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