Ginkgo Bioworks, an organism engineering company and the first Y Combinator biotech startup, announced today that it raised $9 million in a Series A round from OS Fund, Felicis Ventures, Data Collective, Vast Ventures and iGlobe Partners. The funding will be used to operate a brand new foundry, Bioworks1, capable of automated organism engineering through the use of advanced software-integrated robots.
The versatility of this Boston-based company is far-reaching. They aim to design microbes that produce cultured ingredients such as fragrances, flavors, sweeteners and cosmetics as well as microbes capable of more complex tasks like converting single-carbon compounds into higher value products such as organic chemicals and fuels. However, their applications are not limited to chemical production: they are also developing probiotic bacteria that eliminate dangerous infections and supporting natural product discovery efforts through the generation of libraries of molecules around key natural product scaffolds.
In 2008, Tom Knight, a world-renowned computer scientist, and MIT engineering PhD graduates Reshma Shetty, Jason Kelly, Barry Canton and Austin Che realized how expensive and slow the conventional approach of engineering microbes by hand can be. They founded Ginkgo Bioworks to accelerate the industrialized cell engineering approach, and perform organism engineering faster and cheaper in an automated foundry. They believe that engineers focused on a specific part of the project, such as designing, building or testing microbes, can develop more complex and efficient organisms, compared to engineers that execute all parts of the project by themselves.
The continued investment in biotech companies like Ginkgo Bioworks promises to usher in a new era for biotech research where most of the work is automated. This will free up lots of time so that researchers can focus on things robots can’t: project design and analysis. Gingko Bioworks Series A funding will also help facilitate the completion of Bioworks2, an additional next-generation foundry that will be constructed in 2017 to further accelerate designer organism production. As Ginkgo Bioworks continues to grow and advance its foundries, it will be a big player in this new wave of fast-paced biotech research.
Ginkgo Bioworks is financially supported by Y Combinator, and previously secured over $15 million in contracts from DARPA and other government agencies.
Join us at SynBioBeta London 2015 to hear from Brynne Stanton, Biological Engineer at Ginkgo BioWorks!
Note: Spencer Scott, a Bioengineering PhD student at UC San Diego, also contributed to this blog post.