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The Synthetic Biology Ecosystem is Born

By Jason Kelly, CEO of Ginkgo Bioworks

Biotechnology is expanding into new markets at a rapid rate. Bolt Threads is bringing biotech to the fashion industry—recently announcing a partnership with Patagonia. The Flavor & Fragrance industry had no biotech products just a few years ago and Amyris alone has now brought four new products to market. That industry expects 10 more biotech products in the next two years. The low price points of commodity chemicals have long resisted replacement via biotech but just today Genomatica announced a licensee of their technology, Novamont, has opened the world’s first commercial scale BDO plant. Synthetic biology startups are also making headway in biotech production of leather, milk, egg whites, and more.

A revolution is coming in the way we make everything around us. Biotechnology with synthetic biology as the underlying driving technology will be at the center of that revolution.

To meet this rapid market expansion, we need an ecosystem of specialist companies working together to deliver products to customers. Biology shows us that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts—no organism is an island. Diverse ecosystems thrive on the exchanges between individuals and communities. Likewise, No individual company has the resources and competencies to handle everything—product selection, early stage R&D, organism engineering, scale-up, manufacturing, downstream processing, packaging, branding, and marketing. There has been too much redundant technology development in our industry and several companies have now realized the opportunity afforded by combining forces.

Our partnership with Amyris has created the gold standard for the production of small-molecule products. Through this partnership the companies can combine and access each other’s technology for strain engineering and then scale up those strains with Amyris’ world-leading infrastructure. Ginkgo has committed to use Amyris exclusively as our scale-up & production partner during our partnership and we encourage the wider industry to use Amyris as our collective fermentation backbone. Scale-up and production isn’t just running fermenters—it requires deep biological know-how to optimize strains for stability and robustness, along with reliable small-scale culture models for testing strains. Amyris has learned the lessons that you’ll just spend your dollars and time repeating. Let them take that off your plate—we did.

With the opening of Novamont’s $100M, 30,000 ton per year plant, Genomatica has proven they speak the language of commodity chemical companies and understand their needs. If you are a chemical company considering deploying biotechnology, let Genomatica guide you. If you are a startup developing new technologies in fermentation, downstream purification, synthetic biology or other areas to license to the commodity chemical industry, partner with Genomatica to bring those technologies to market. Ginkgo announced today that we did!

Earlier this year Ginkgo announced the purchase of 600 million basepairs of DNA synthesis from Twist and Gen9. These companies have scaled processes to meet this demand–Ginkgo is now placing monthly orders of at least 25 million base pairs and that number is rapidly climbing. The DNA synthesis industry has easily stepped up to meet our demand and they will be able to meet your demand if you bet on them. Synthetic DNA is the heart of synthetic biology–if you aren’t ordering a lot, you should be.

Ginkgo today opened our new foundry, Bioworks2.  This facility is scaled to use all that DNA and to support the efforts of our partnerships with Amyris and Genomatica. We’re working hard to keep up with the demand from more and more markets for biotech solutions.


Jason Kelly

Jason Kelly co-founded Ginkgo Bioworks in 2008. The organism is the product at Ginkgo Bioworks. Ginkgo’s organism engineers design microbes to spec for customers across a range of industries using an integrated technology platform including custom hardware, software, and wetware. Jason earned his PhD from MIT in Biological Engineering in 2008, under professor Drew Endy, and his BS from MIT in Chemical Engineering and Biology in 2003. His graduate research included the development of a measurement standard for transcriptional elements.

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