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2019 Disruptor 50: No. 19. Ginkgo Bioworks

Founders: Jason Kelly (CEO), Tom Knight, Reshma Shetty, Barry Canton, Auston Che
Launched: 2009
Headquarters: Boston
$429 million
Valuation: $1.4 billion (PitchBook)
Key technologies:
Robotics, synthetic biology
Fragrances, food ingredients, sweeteners

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Ginkgo Bioworks was started by a team of MIT scientists in 2009, intent on building made-to-order microbes that enable customers to grow rather than manufacture better products. The Boston-based company calls itself the “organism company,” because it designs and prints DNA, the building blocks that support all living things.

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Ginkgo has raised $429 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Viking Global Investors and Cascade Investment. This puts the company’s valuation at a little over $1 billion. It has about 200 employees.

Last year the company launched Bioworks4, its latest biological engineering foundry. This will allow Ginkgo to apply its automated processes to engineer mammalian cell genomes, which are essential in pharmaceutical research and manufacturing. It will allow the company to more quickly prototype and test new therapies, reducing time and costs during the development cycle.

And with better data during the pre-clinical stage, researchers wind up with the best possible drug candidates before moving on to expensive animal testing and clinical trials. Earlier this year, Ginkgo announced a $100 million partnership with Cronos Group, the leading Canadian cannabis company, to produce cultured cannabinoids in an economically sustainable way. In addition, it spun out a new food ingredients company called Motif Ingredients to supply ingredients that can be customized to mimic flavors or textures similar to those found in protein products like beef and dairy. The hope is that it will be a game-changer for the budding plant-based food business.