Disruptor 50 2020

44. Ginkgo Bioworks

Founders: Jason Kelly (CEO), Tom Knight, Reshma Shetty, Barry Canton, Austin Che
Launched: 2009
Headquarters: Boston
 $920 million
Valuation: $4.4 billion
Key technologies:
Fragrances, food ingredients, sweeteners
Previous appearances on Disruptor 50 List: 4 (No. 19 in 2019)

George Kavallines

This Boston-based company uses the most advanced technology on the planet — biology — to grow products instead of manufacturing them. The company's technology platform is bringing biotechnology into a variety of consumer goods markets, enabling fragrance, cosmetic, nutrition and food companies to make better products.

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Ginkgo Bioworks was started in 2009 by a team of MIT scientists intent on building made-to-order microbes that enable customers to grow rather than manufacture better products. The company calls itself the "organism company" because it designs and prints DNA, the building blocks that support all living things.

Over the last year, Ginkgo has signed new partnerships, including one with Roche for up to $160 million to discover antibiotics, and an $80 million investment in Synlogic to accelerate the development of living medicines. Ginkgo also launched its second spin-off company, Motif Foodworks, with $117 million in funding to address the need for better alternative proteins. This followed the launch of Joyn Bio in 2017 to bring more sustainable practices to agriculture. Additionally, Ginkgo partnered with biotech accelerator program Petri and Y Combinator to allow access to its cell programming technology for start-ups to further enable innovation across biotech.

Jason Kelly, Founder, Ginkgo Bioworks
Ginkgo Bioworks CEO on scaling up Covid-19 testing: 'If we try, we can win'

Last month it announced plans to open a high-scale Covid-19 testing facility.

In September, Ginkgo announced a financing round of $290 million, bringing the company's total funding to $920 million. The money will be used to further expand the reach of Ginkgo's platform for cell programming, enabling its team of organism engineers to further investigate the potential of biological engineering, and to enable its technology to help a wider variety of industries. Other investors include Viking Global Investors and Cascade Investment, the private investment fund of Bill Gates.  

Disruptor 50: Ginkgo Bioworks CEO Jason Kelly on fighting Covid-19
Disruptor 50: Ginkgo Bioworks CEO Jason Kelly on fighting Covid-19
A look back at the CNBC Disruptor 50: 8 years, 209 companies