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Ginkgo Bioworks Grabs $9M Series A For Building Organisms

Xconomy Boston — 

Ginkgo Bioworks, a synthetic biology company that designs and builds organisms, has received $9 million in Series A funding and is opening an 18,000-square foot “foundry” to make its organism engineering scalable, the company said Wednesday.

The company engineers microbes for customers to produce anything from probiotics to cultured ingredients, such as flavors, fragrances, cosmetics, and nutritional ingredients. On its website, Ginkgo says it can manufacture new scents for a rose for perfume makers.

Ginkgo, which is based in Boston, has been using the money to finish building its foundry, which it calls Bioworks1, and to operate it. The foundry allows the company to automate the genetic engineering lab work, which previously required a full team of scientists, Ginkgo co-founder Jason Kelly said in a statement.

To date, the company has signed 20 organism design contracts, including with Fortune 500 companies, it said.

Ginkgo was founded in 2008 by computer scientist Tom Knight and a group of MIT graduates including Kelly, Reshma Shetty, Barry Canton, and Austin Che. It was selected in 2009 as one of two companies to find better ways to assemble synthetic DNA, funded with $4.1 million through a Scottish initiative.

The company eventually developed a kit for assembling multi-gene systems, has secured $15 million of contracts with DARPA, and in 2014 was the first biotech in Y Combinator’s accelerator program. The Series A funding came from Felicis Ventures, OS Fund, Data Collective, iGlobe Partners, and Vast Ventures.

Genetic engineering and synthetic biology have made large strides in recent years, with everyone from industry stalwarts such as J. Craig Venter to more recent entrants such as Second Genome pushing development forward.

Ginkgo is also designing a second-generation foundry, Bioworks2, which it expects to start constructing in 2017.