Ginkgo Bioworks, a Boston-based biotech company that designs custom microbes for clients across multiple industries, has raised $275 million in a series D round of funding from Viking Global, Y Combinator’s Continuity Fund, Bill Gates’ Cascade Investment, and General Atlantic.
Founded in 2008, Ginkgo Bioworks specializes in synthetically creating cells for companies in the pharmaceutical, food, and fragrance industries, though it is also branching out into the agricultural realm. The startup recently announced a new joint venture with agricultural chemical giant Bayer to create crops that are capable of producing their own fertilizer.
An “organism company,” Ginkgo Bioworks effectively designs and makes its own DNA, and it represents a growing trend of companies recreating nature in the lab.
Ginkgo Bioworks had previously raised $154 million in outside funding, and with its latest gargantuan cash injection the company said that it will support its third foundry, Bioworks3, for prototyping and growing its engineered organism business across industries.
“We believe in the power of biology as a better way to make things, and we founded Ginkgo to make biology easier to engineer,” said Ginkgo Bioworks CEO Jason Kelly. “DNA is the code that will drive the next technological revolution, the way that digital code drove the revolution in information technology in the last half century. But unlike digital code, DNA code powers us — it is our food, our medicine, and increasingly, our technology. Our foundries are a platform that enable our partners to tap into the power of biology.”
Last week, Bolt Threads — a Bay Area biotech startup that has raised more than $90 million — announced a new $198 hat made from synthetic spider silk and wool. And a few months back, Memphis Meats raised $17 million from big-name backers — including Bill Gates — to produce a variety of meat products that circumvent the need to breed or slaughter animals.
It seems there is an appetite to create more sustainable industries that have minimal impact on the environment.
“Ginkgo taught me to understand that DNA is code that can be designed and built to do amazing things,” added Y Combinator president Sam Altman. “It’s time for Silicon Valley to pay attention to biology, because designing organisms will have an impact in ways that designing computer code never will.”
Ginkgo Bioworks hasn’t officially revealed its valuation, but as rumors of its latest raise first started to circulate a few weeks ago, PitchBook estimated its value at “more than $1 billion.” That would make it the second Boston biotech startup to reach “unicorn” status in the past few months, after Indigo Agriculture raised $156 million in September, with a claimed valuation of $1.4 billion.
Elsewhere, renowned VC firm Andreessen Horowitz today announced a fresh $450 million fund aimed specifically at biotech startups — this fund is double the size of the firm’s first biotech fund two years ago.