7. Ginkgo Bioworks

Growing products in the lab

Founders: Tom Knight, Jason Kelly (CEO), Reshma Shetty, Barry Canton, Austin Che
$154 million
$524.6 million (PitchBook)
Fragrances, food ingredients, sweeteners

George Kavallines

This Boston-based company, started by a team of MIT scientists and launched out of Y Combinator, has developed a technology that uses yeast as a base to make all kinds of substances, including perfumes, cosmetics and sweeteners, from microbugs. Ginkgo Bioworks can use this technology across a whole host of consumer and industrial products, enabling customers to grow rather than manufacture better products.

Read More FULL LIST: 2017 DISRUPTOR 50

Earlier this year, the company bought one of its biggest synthetic DNA suppliers, Boston-based Gen9. Investors are optimistic the purchase will allow Ginkgo to lower costs (no more markups to pay) and reduce the risk of not having an adequate supply. The acquisition will also enable the company's next-generation automated foundry — Bioworks2 — to significantly speed up the process of organism design.

Investors, such as Cascade Investment (Bill Gates' asset management firm) and Allen & Co., have poured $154 million into the company since its founding in 2008.

Ginkgo won't disclose names of customers but did reveal that it has a contract with DARPA, the Defense Department's tech research arm, to develop probiotics to treat antibiotic-resistant germs.

Correction: This story was revised to correct the spelling of Reshma Shetty's first name.

Latest Special Reports

  • The latest CNBC Fed Survey.

  • Piggybanks navigating a maze

    Americans are still shaken by the pandemic and the volatility of the markets. Many are working to manage the impact on their retirement and savings. The implications of the pandemic and economic volatility and changes in tax laws bring new considerations for individuals and especially those retirees planning for and managing future finances.

  • The Workforce Wire provides news and information on what employers and executives are doing to adapt to the ever-changing workplace.