October 19, 2016

Ginkgo Bioworks and Prospect Bio will Collaborate to Develop and Deploy Biosensors

Giles Ochs
Giles Ochs, Co-Founder of Prospect Bio, at SynBioBeta SF 2016.

Ginkgo Bioworks, “the organism company,” has just announced a partnership with biosensor developer Prospect Bio whereby the two will collaborate to improve the efficiency of Ginkgo’s process for engineering biological strains.  Under their collaboration, Prospect Bio will develop biosensors that will be integrated into Ginkgo’s rapid prototyping scheme for organism design, allowing for more effective screening of prototypes and accelerated strain development.

Nate Tedford, head of Ginkgo’s test platform, described the positive impact that this partnership will have on his company’s capabilities.  “The synergy between our foundry tools and Prospect’s biosensors means lower costs and faster development times across a range of our projects,” he said. “We’re thrilled to be working with Prospect Bio on new tools that will help us grow our capabilities even further.”

Ginkgo Bioworks is on a roll

This announcement is just the latest in a string of collaborations that Ginkgo has established with other players in the industry over the past months.  The company recently renewed its collaboration with Twist Bioscience and established a new partnership with Gen9, placing orders for historic quantities of DNA from the two synthesis companies.  In addition, within the past few weeks, Ginkgo has also announced that its organism design services will be harnessed by a slew of new partners, including Amyris, Cargill, Archer Daniel Midlands Company, and Genomatica

Ginkgo Bioworks has also recently attracted attention for its $100 million Series C fundraising round and, just last month, for the unveiling of their next-generation design foundry known as Bioworks2.  The 18,000 square foot facility increases the company’s production capacity by a factor of 6 and will serve as the stage for designing, testing, and screening thousands of microbial strains for Ginkgo’s partners who are pursuing the bio-based synthesis of food, flavor, fragrance, cosmetic, and other industrial chemicals.

“We are excited to begin a partnership with a company so committed to growing the field of biological engineering, as evidenced by Ginkgo’s many successful partnerships,” said Giles Ochs, Co-Founder of Prospect Bio.  “Ginkgo’s platform is state of the art and capable of engineering cells to produce a broad range of targets, representing an incredible opportunity to demonstrate the similarly wide-ranging capabilities of our custom biosensors.”

The unsung importance of biosensors

Industry-wide, the ability to design and create organisms in high-throughput has increased dramatically in recent years.  This owes to advancements in DNA synthesis, robotic automation, and computer integration which enable the increasingly-adopted strategy known as rapid organism prototyping.  Improvements in the efficiency of screening the many engineered organism prototypes churned out by companies like Ginkgo, however, have not followed suit.  Thus, screening represents a significant bottleneck in the efficiency of bioengineering.

Prospect Bio believes that the solution to this bottleneck lies in biosensors.  According to Prospect co-founder Giles Ochs, the inspiration for Prospect’s mission came while their team was working in the form of another startup called MetaMixis. “Our time as MetaMixis did give us great insight into the pipeline of Industrial Biotechnology, enabling us to identifying that ‘test’ was quickly going to represent a significant bottleneck for the industry,” he said. “Our team is obsessed with the assumption that there is an enormous trove of useful biological components that remain to be mined in the natural environment. Prospect was created under the belief that somewhere in this obsession is the solution for ‘test’.”

Unlike traditional methods which permit only one prototype to be analyzed at a time, biosensors enable the analysis of many prototypes simultaneously. This can lead to an estimated forty-fold decrease in the cost of the screening phase of a design cycle, while also accelerating the development of commercially-viable microbes.

The high-throughput approach represented by biosensors is a fitting complement to Ginkgo Bioworks’ rapid prototyping strategy of design and engineering, and has the potential to even further accelerate the already-underway revolution in biodesign throughput.

Ginkgo Bioworks:

Headquartered in Boston, Ginkgo Bioworks uses the most advanced technology on the planet biology — to grow products instead of manufacture them. The company’s technology platform is bringing biotechnology into consumer goods markets—enabling fragrance, cosmetic, nutrition, and food companies to make better products. For more information, visit www.ginkgobioworks.com.

Prospect Bio:

Based in Palo Alto, CA, Prospect Bio’s unique metagenomic approach to sourcing naturally found biosensors delivers custom biosensors quickly and cost effectively. Prospect biosensors greatly accelerate customer R&D timelines and expand screening capabilities. In this way, Prospect Bio enables the use of synthetic biology in diverse industries from flavor and fragrances to agriculture to nutrition. For more information, visit www.prospect.bio