Today we are filing our S-4 with the Securities and Exchange Commission. We’d like to share with you excerpts from the letter that we are including in that document, which recognizes the history of this field and the fact that we are standing on the shoulders of giants.
Biology is special. Many of the most important things in our lives come from biology. Our food. Our oxygen. Most of our medicines. Our pets. Our families.
Our children are born with wonder about the living world of animals and plants, but we encourage them to grow out of their dinosaur-loving phase and to focus on our human-built world of technology instead. Perhaps it is time to change that.
We have previously called biology “the most powerful manufacturing technology on the planet,” but it is incorrect to call biology a technology. Technologies are invented by humans. We didn’t invent biology—biology invented us. If you compare biology to our human-engineered technologies, our technologies come up laughably short. Biology grows, building itself with no need for factories. Biology repairs itself, healing wounds and illness. If you look at it under a microscope, its atomic structures put our most precise construction techniques, like semiconductor manufacturing, to shame. To top it off, biological materials are perfectly recyclable. And most importantly, biology self-replicates—it is alive.
To be fair, humans have only spent about ten thousand years developing technologies. Biology has had a 4 billion year head-start on us. Humans, however, have recently invented two very important technologies—reading and writing DNA.
In 1952, Rosalind Franklin took the first X-ray picture of DNA. Her image showed that DNA was a double helix, a twisted ladder of paired “letters” that made a molecular code. The code was made up of A’s, T’s, C’s, and G’s instead of 0’s and 1’s like computer code, but it was digital, and its structure implied that someday we would be able to read and write it.
In 1976, Genentech brought DNA writing to the world by building on the academic work of its founder Herbert Boyer, who “cut-and-pasted” the first gene from one species to another in 1973. Genentech launched the first biotech therapeutic, human insulin for diabetics, and then vertically integrated to become a pharmaceutical company. Today, more than a third of new therapeutic drugs are made from biotechnology.
The tools for DNA writing have greatly expanded since 1976—CRISPR allows targeted DNA edits, DNA printing allows long pieces of DNA to be written from scratch—and every day, the cost and scale of our ability to write DNA improves. The cost of reading DNA has fallen more than a million-fold since the completion of the Human Genome Project twenty years ago. The era of Moore’s Law is coming to a close, but biology’s exponentials are just beginning.
At Ginkgo we are unifying these tools into a horizontal platform for programming cells across organisms. We make this platform available to customers who want to program cells for applications in food, medicine, cosmetics, agriculture, materials, or any other market. We believe that biology can impact all industries that produce physical goods, because biology makes stuff, and it evolves to solve new problems. Today the world faces many problems, and we hope that biology can help us meet those challenges.
Earlier this week we announced that we’ll be going public via a business combination with Soaring Eagle Acquisition Corp. We’re thrilled to be partnering with the Soaring Eagle team and Dr. Arie Belldegrun, who is going to provide real strategic leadership to Ginkgo, particularly as we expand more deeply into therapeutics applications, including cell and gene therapies. We are excited that so many people are beginning to see the potential of biology and are working with us to help bring our vision for cell programming to life.
One of the fun parts about going public is picking a ticker. We thought about a lot of options, from the traditional ($GKGO), to the “sounds great at first, but wait…” ($CELL), to the provocative ($GMO). One of our favorite options ($TREX) was, sadly, taken. But one option stood out from the pack, allowing us to pay tribute to the real visionaries in our field: Rosalind Franklin and Herbert Boyer, and embrace the heart of what we do. This ticker has a long history and once belonged to Genentech, who introduced the first biotech therapeutic: human insulin. We are honored and humbled to be able to continue the legacy of Genentech, who held the NYSE:DNA ticker until their acquisition by Roche. While Soaring Eagle (Nasdaq:SRNG) will still be trading as a proxy for Ginkgo for the next few months until the transaction closes, upon the closing of the business combination, Ginkgo will be listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker DNA.
We’re excited to bring this story forward with you and also wanted to share our new website syntheticbiology.com to help spark your imagination and highlight stories about synthetic biology being applied for good, making the world more open, equitable, and sustainable. We hope you’ll join us in asking “what if you could grow anything?” as we embark on this new adventure.
Ginkgo’s mission is to make biology easier to engineer. We were the kids dreaming about dinosaurs and learning how to program computers. Today we dream that kids in the future will be learning how to program cells.
There will be dragons,
Austin, Barry, Jason, Reshma, and Tom