Boston-based biotech unicorn Ginkgo Bioworks announced today it has raised a $290 million Series E. The financing takes the 10-year-old company’s valuation to over $4 billion, according to Forbes. It also brings its total funding to $719 million, according to its Crunchbase profile.
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All existing major investors and other new investors including “funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates Inc.” particpated in the round. The company first became a unicorn when it raised a $275 million Series D at a valuation of $1 billion in 2017. Backers include General Atlantic, Bill Gates, and Viking Global Investors, among others.
The financing makes Ginkgo Bioworks the most valuable venture-backed company in Boston, according to the Boston Globe. It also pushes its founders’ stakes “to some $250 million each,” according to Forbes.
In its own words, Ginkgo Bioworks uses synthetic biology “to grow products instead of manufacturing them.” The company says its technology platform is putting biotechnology into consumer goods markets with the goal of helping fragrance, cosmetic, nutrition, and food companies “to make better products.”
“Cells are programmable similar to computers because they run on digital code in the form of DNA,” said Jason Kelly, CEO and co-founder of Ginkgo Bioworks, in a written statement. “Today’s fundraise will allow us to expand our technology and continue our drive to bring biology into every physical goods industry – materials, clothing, electronics, food, pharmaceuticals, and more. They are all biotech industries but just don’t know it yet.”
A few days ago PitchBook reported that a large funding deal was in the works.
And in a blog earlier this week Y Combinator noted that Gingko Bioworks represented “the first bio company YC funded, back in summer 2014.”
Now Ginkgo is working to establish itself as a home for early-stage startups and entrepreneurs to build their biotech businesses. Through two new partnerships with Y Combinator and Petri, “startups can access Ginkgo’s platform and mentorship in exchange for equity,” according to Gingko.
In its blog, Y Combinator noted that Ginkgo’s core business is programming cells for large companies such as Bayer and Roche. It wrote: “But these are multi-million dollar deals that are out of the reach of startups. Ginkgo’s new deal will make it possible for startups to access the same platform.”
Over the past two years, the company has partnered with a number of companies, including striking a $122 million deal to produce cultured cannabinoids with Cronos and an up to $160 million agreement with Roche to discover novel antibiotics. It also invested $80 million in Synlogic “to accelerate the development of living medicines.” And last year, Ginkgo launched its second spinout company, Motif Foodworks, with $117 million in funding, to address the need for better alternative proteins (which we covered here).
Illustration: Li-Anne Dias