Ginkgo Bioworks, a bioengineering company out of Boston, Massachusetts, has just signed a deal with the Japanese company Ajinomoto. Ajinomoto, a producer of food ingredients such as seasonings, sauces, and pharmaceuticals, with out-source the ingredient synthesizing to Ginkgo’s new biofoundry.
The biofoundry will act mostly like a contract research organization, where larger companies will use the technology employed by Ginkgo in order to remove in-house synthesizing. Ginkgo uses many microorganisms for its food and flavors line, including Candida, Lactobacillus, and Escherichia coli, though information on many specific species are proprietary knowledge. In all, Ginkgo has developed 17 novel microorganisms for probiotic and ingredient production, and is partnered with over 50 companies for carbon mitigation and natural product discovery.
To perform this research and discovery, Ginkgo uses state-of-the-art robotic and genetic engineering. By automating the process, Ginkgo can run thousands of genetic manipulation tests on various organisms, as well as produce known products for partnered companies, at a fraction of the cost and in far less time than conventional bench science methods. This then allows time for developing “organism-agnostic” approaches, whereby the researchers build novel DNA and harness the power of specific protein pathways for future large-scale testing.
Ginkgo is on the cutting edge of a new cottage industry of genetic engineering companies that produce simple products for larger organizations. The particular niche that each company like Ginkgo fills allow them to selectively partner with companies they desire, rather than relying solely on seed funding. Indeed, with a pedigree like Ginkgo’s (its top leaders are PhDs from computer science and biological engineering from MIT) and their microbial biofoundry, its no wonder they received $54 million in funding this year alone, all before signing this new deal with Ajinomoto.
Edward Marks is a PhD student at the University of Delaware. His research involves the healing of myocardial tissue after major cardiac events using nanomedicine techniques, with the goal of pushing any advancement directly into the clinic. Edward received his BS from Rutgers University and Masters from the University of Delaware.