Ena Cratsenburg is the Chief Business Officer at Ginkgo Bioworks and has more than a decade of experience working in the industry with companies like Amyris, Evolva, Intrexon and Pixar. Get to know Ena a little better and learn more about her role at Ginkgo:
1. Can you tell us about your career journey and how you went from Pixar to the biotech industry?
I spent six years at Pixar overseeing the Disney/Pixar collaboration and doing deals that would maximize the value of Pixar’s intellectual properties. When I joined Pixar in ‘99, they had just signed the Co-development Agreement with Disney (which was essentially a 50/50 partnership), and I was responsible for making sure the agreement was implemented properly which included ensuring Pixar properties were monetized in the market to the fullest extent. For example, I was actively involved with Disney’s television team to determine the best way to license the Pixar films for television distribution across geographies and different distribution windows (e.g. PPV, cable, network, etc.). In addition to the Disney agreement, Pixar carved out rights to exploit its IP in interactive games. As the only business person on the team at the time when I joined Pixar, I also worked on the deals related to licensing of the Pixar properties to interactive gaming companies.
Surprising as it may sound, this was the perfect training ground for me to make an entrance to the biotech world at Amyris, Evolva, Intrexon and now Ginkgo. It laid the foundation for understanding how to commercialize emerging technologies and identify market opportunities. I had always been attracted to synthetic biology for its potential to revolutionize technology and was excited to join the industry to help companies recognize the power of microorganisms and find a competitive edge within biology.
2. Why Ginkgo?
The two main drivers for my move to Ginkgo were the technology and the team. Ginkgo’s technology is infinitely scalable and Ginkgo’s incorporation of automation into its foundry expands the universe of what is possible with synthetic biology. Furthermore, Ginkgo’s technology and foundry model make engineering biology far more economically sound – something that’s always top of mind for me on the business development side. The team at Ginkgo is incredibly smart and it’s exciting to work amongst such a talented team. Beyond just the technology and high-quality deal flow the team is bringing in, I’ve noticed how well everyone articulates Ginkgo’s mission and value proposition. I can’t imagine a better team.
3. What does your role entail at Ginkgo?
I oversee business development at Ginkgo, working closely with our customers, partners and prospects to help them identify new ways to leverage synthetic biology in their line of business. My focus has always been on commercializing emerging technologies, and at Ginkgo that means helping companies understand the greater potential of synthetic biology whether that means finding ways we can utilize biology as a platform for new product development, supporting production and cost efficiencies, or promoting sustainability. As far as day-to-day, there is really no standard day for me. I could be developing new value propositions, meeting with customers (either via telephone or in person), furthering various stages of our pipeline, or negotiating/evaluating deals. I also work closely with the business development team to provide guidance and support as needed.
4. Can you discuss your experience working in the consumer sector as it relates to synthetic biology?
I led the consumer sector at Intrexon and was responsible for identifying opportunities to connect consumer-oriented companies with Intrexon’s existing technologies. Between my time at Intrexon and now with this role at Ginkgo, I’m thinking more critically than ever about how synthetic biology can impact consumer goods outside of just ingredients, chemicals or biofuels (which have been the focus of synthetic biology companies thus far). Ginkgo’s technology allows me take a step back and look broadly at the societal, economic and environmental impact that synthetic biology can have on products that consumers engage with every day like cosmetics, fermented foods, wearable devices, clothing and more. These are areas that synthetic biology has only now begun to explore.
5. What is your favorite thing about working at Ginkgo?
Hmmm, I actually have two things. The first is that I love the “swing for the fences” mentality. I truly believe that in order to do big and impactful things, we have to think big and be willing to take the risks. Ginkgo embraces that and I love how this mentality is woven into the company’s DNA. The second thing is the commitment and dedication of the team – we have incredibly talented and smart folks here, and when we combine that with commitment and dedication, we are unstoppable!