Imagine a bunch of skinny jean-wearing hipsters sitting in a well lit studio above a Cambridge coffee shop adorned with minimalist artwork, drafting the next greatest amalgamation of styles of sofa bed, ready to wow the pants off the world of industrial design.
Now, imagine that instead this is a group of bio tech brainiacs, their studio is adorned with software-guided state-of-the-art robots, and the designs that they sweat over will eventually become bio-organisms. This would be Gingko Bioworks, a Boston based start-up that raised $9 million in Series A financing this week from Felicis Ventures, OS Fund, Data Collective, iGlobe Partners and Vast Ventures.
Gingko Bioworks specializes in designing and developing microbes that are used in flavors, sweeteners and fragrances. They garnered a lot of attention last year after becoming the first bio tech start up to go through Y Combinator. Basically, the folks at Gingko are taking a hint from the field of genetics and using synthetic biology to engineer specific yeasts, bacteria and algae strains into microbes that can be used in a variety of fields, from food products to natural pesticides.
“Biology is one of the most critical technologies of the coming decades and will revolutionize multiple industries from healthcare to energy,” said Bryan Johnson, Founder of OS Fund, in a statement about the investment.
The company was co-founded in 2008 by Dr. Jason Kelly, who holds a doctoral degree in biological engineering from MIT, and fellow MIT graduates Reshma Shetty, Barry Canton and Austin Che and computer scientist Tom Knight. They spent four years getting to know the community and also received about $15 million in contract work from DARPA and other research agencies prior to taking part in YC last summer.
Gingko will use some of this most recent funding to expand its existing laboratory, Bioworks1, into an 18,000 square foot space with 20 specialty software controlled robots. According to Dr. Kelly, 10 technicians with the help of these robots in one factory can equal the output of 50 to 100 scientists in a traditional setting. In addition to R&D fees, Gingko will also take a cut of royalties that are generated from products that use the microbes they produce.
Gingko is one of a number of companies representing a major shift in the bio tech industry. It is an exciting time to watch as new technologies make it possible for the industry to prototype faster and far cheaper than ever before.
Photo Courtesy of TechCrunch