Zymergen Grabs $44M For “Designer” Microbes Tested by Robots

Zymergen, an Emeryville, CA-based biotechnology startup, announced $44 million of venture funding this morning for its effort to build better “designer” microbes to make chemicals and various industrial materials for manufacturing.

Zymergen says its microbes can be used in everything from pharmaceuticals to foods, potentially making plants more resistant to pests or helping adhesives stay intact in patients after surgery. The Bay Area company contends that its biologic process is a clean, sustainable, and inexpensive way to produce commercial molecules.

The company says a key to its synthetic biology work is automating processes using robots and the algorithms that control them. That apparently helps the company work more effectively and efficiently than conventional systems allow. Zymergen is able to test thousands of strains of microbes, and it says it uses statistical analysis on data it collects about the research—using a machine-learning software platform it calls Helix—to improve its robots’ work as time goes on.

The $44 million Series A round was led by Data Collective, with participation from AME Cloud Ventures, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, HVF, Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors, Obvious Ventures, True Ventures, and Two Sigma Ventures.

David Holley is Xconomy's national correspondent based in Austin, TX. You can reach him at dholley@xconomy.com Follow @xconholley

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