Developing Water Quality Biosensors with FREDSense

Ginkgo’s strain development capabilities to help develop advanced biosensors

Today, we’re excited to announce our partnership with FREDsense Technologies Corp, a next generation water quality platform company leveraging synthetic biology to build field kits for faster, cheaper, and more efficient analysis. Through this partnership, we seek to build four distinct microbial strain biosensors, compatible with FREDsense’s field-ready hardware for remote water quality monitoring applications.

Demand for scalable monitoring and testing systems has increased, as water quality becomes an ever-growing environmental and public health concern. Conventional water quality test results are often delayed, since samples must be transported to labs for chemical analysis. FREDsense builds portable solutions to efficiently assess the chemicals in the water at the source. This allows for rapid modification of water treatment processes in real-time without the need for external lab equipment.

Supporting real-time field detection of harmful molecules and toxins in any water source

The biosensors in development by Ginkgo aim to support real-time field detection of harmful molecules, and may be used to generate solutions for groundwater and industrial water management systems.

Partnering with FREDsense is an exciting opportunity to apply our strain development capabilities to powerful biosensor technology for an important application. Protecting our water sources is a mission critical initiative: life on this planet as we know it depends on it. We’re eager to work toward enhancing the capabilities of FREDsense’s platform to monitor for harmful contaminants in water.

“Water is our most critical resource, and we now have the technology to detect in real-time many of the threats or contaminants that can impact the water that our environments and communities depend on,” says David Lloyd, CEO of FREDsense. “Through this partnership with Ginkgo, we aim to introduce rapid, simple and accurate testing to deliver water quality monitoring systems to those that most need it. We believe that synthetic biology is the key to solving some of the biggest challenges facing the water industry globally and are very excited to partner with Ginkgo on this vision.”

Find the full press release here along with all of the latest news from the Ginkgo team.

What will you grow with Ginkgo?

New Platform Venture: Launching BiomEdit

BiomEdit intends to leverage Ginkgo’s platform to discover and develop microbiome-based animal health products to improve animal health, animal protein production, and livestock disease monitoring.

We’re excited to announce the launch of BiomEdit, a microbiome innovation company that is expected to discover, develop, and introduce novel probiotics, bioactive molecules, engineered microbial medicines and microbial monitoring services for animal health.

Microbiome science is a rapidly growing field creating breakthroughs in animal health based on the microbial communities that live in animals and their surrounding environment. BiomEdit intends to discover, develop and introduce differentiated products that address some of the greatest needs for innovation in animal health, including medicated feed ingredients, nutritional health and therapeutics for livestock and pet species, as well as biosecurity technology for animal disease monitoring.

BiomEdit is Ginkgo’s latest platform venture, created in partnership with Elanco Animal Health — a leading global animal health company.

In October 2021, Elanco announced its intention to carve out its microbiome platform and pipeline under the leadership of Aaron Schacht, BiomEdit CEO and former Elanco executive vice president of Innovation, Regulatory and Business Development, to concentrate and focus more resources on its high value late-stage Pet Health pipeline. BiomEdit is the result of this separation, and was developed with Ferment Co., the company creation studio that helps ideate and launch new companies across a variety of end-markets that use cell programming to support human and environmental health and well-being.

Elanco will contribute intellectual property and a pipeline of ongoing programs to BiomEdit, which will be staffed with members of the former Elanco microbiome R&D team. The team brings the expertise and experience needed to build on the foundation of microbiome work started at Elanco. By leveraging foundational programs from Elanco, intellectual property from both Elanco and Ginkgo, and an experienced team, BiomEdit should be well positioned as a stand-alone company to develop and launch innovative products to address unmet needs in animal health.

“Livestock producers and veterinarians are calling for new products that address antibiotic resistance and improve livestock sustainability,” said Mr. Schacht. “Coupling the platform, pipeline and deep expertise of the former Elanco microbiome team with Ginkgo’s unique screening and strain engineering capabilities will accelerate and amplify our ability to advance novel animal microbiome inspired products for animal health.”

“Elanco is excited to continue its participation in the microbiome by partnering with Ginkgo, Viking Global Investors and Anterra Capital to create the next-generation animal health innovation player,” said Jeff Simmons, president and CEO of Elanco Animal Health. “We wish Aaron and his team the best as they build out this novel innovation platform to address unmet needs in animal health, such as alternatives to antibiotics.”

Ginkgo has significant expertise in the discovery, design and monitoring of microbes at scale for a wide array of functions.

BiomEdit plans to leverage Ginkgo’s state-of-the-art cell programming platform to improve the design and development of probiotics, bioactives, engineered microbial medicines, and microbial monitoring services. BiomEdit joins other Ginkgo platform ventures such as Joyn Bio, Motif FoodWorks, Allonnia, Arcaea, Verb Biotics and Ayana Bio.

We are always on the lookout for opportunities to accelerate our partners’ abilities to address massive challenges, such as antibiotic resistance in livestock. Together, we see Ginkgo and BiomEdit addressing significant opportunities in the animal health industry with new breakthroughs based on microbiome science. We deeply depend on the health of animals in our ecosystem and supply chains; the potential applications for our cell programming platform in this area are far reaching.

In addition to the assets and intellectual property contributed by Elanco and Ginkgo, BiomEdit is launching with a targeted Series A funding raise of $40 million, with participation by Viking Global Investors and Anterra Capital. In exchange for their respective asset and intellectual property contributions, Elanco and Ginkgo are expected to retain approximately 40% combined proportional ownership of BiomEdit, on a fully-diluted basis, upon the completion of the Series A financing. Elanco’s ownership will be in non-voting shares.

J.P. Morgan Securities LLC acted on behalf of Elanco as sole placement agent on the financing.

Find the full press release here along with all of the latest news from the Ginkgo team.

Synthetic Biology for Climate Action

We believe synthetic biology has an important role to play in addressing climate change.

Climate change is a global threat that requires immediate action. It’s already impacting every single person and living thing on our planet. The best time to address climate change was decades ago; the next best time? Now. So, what are we waiting for? Let’s go grow!

Limiting warming to below 1.5°C will require us to reimagine our industrial landscapes to eliminate emissions and to sequester carbon from the atmosphere. Decarbonizing our energy, materials, chemicals, and food production will require massive shifts in how we make stuff.

We believe that synthetic biology has an important role to play in this climate transition, whether it’s the resilience of ecosystems and communities to a changing climate, the reduction of emissions through circular manufacturing, or the sequestration of carbon through soil, oceanic, lithospheric, or anthropogenic sinks. We believe synthetic biology is going to be one of the enabling technologies for this revolution.

Biology is natively the technology of climate: it makes our air, makes our food, and cleans our water. We believe the ability to engineer biology is ultimately the biggest climate technology in the world.

What are we waiting for? Let’s go grow!

Last week, we hosted a virtual event with several key thought leaders in the world of synthetic biology for climate tech. Over 650 people from the wider synthetic biology and climate tech communities tuned in to share their work and excitement. The panelists discussed carbon fixation and sequestration pathways, manufacturing scale up, and new business models for carbon capture. You can check out the recording of the main stage above or on Ginkgo’s YouTube channel.

Bill Gates recently said that climate tech will create 8 to 10 trillion dollar-scale companies. We believe that at least a few of those will be synthetic biology companies. You may be starting one of those companies right now—we’d love to help you accelerate your climate tech R&D with the tools of our platform. Reach out!

Ginkgo Welcomes Vote to Establish New Biotechnology Commission

Earlier today, the US Senate passed the final version of the FY 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which establishes a National Security Commission on Emerging Biotechnology. From here, the Act heads to the White House for President Biden’s signature. Its passage signifies the increasing importance of biotechnology and synthetic biology to competitiveness and national security.

The Commission comes at a critical time for national and international biosecurity. As communities around the globe continue the fight against COVID-19, we are relying on synthetic biology to give us the tools to test, vaccinate, and protect global populations. Further, synthetic biology and biotechnology are vital tools in our efforts to address climate change and meet emissions reductions targets. It’s essential that governments do all they can to support the growth of these critical technologies.

Once established, the new Commission will consider the methods and means necessary to advance the development of synthetic biology, bioengineering, and associated technologies to comprehensively address the national security and defense needs of the United States while enabling a thriving bioeconomy. Specifically, the Commission will present a strategy to establish the United States as the leader in the global bioeconomy. This will include clearly outlined steps the country must take to responsibly use synthetic biology for national security and defense – including the defense against biological threats – and promote synthetic biology innovation.

The time is ripe for such an effort, and we applaud it.

According to McKinsey & Co., in the next 10-20 years, industrial applications of biology are expected to generate direct economic impacts of up to $4 trillion per year, much of which is expected to result from applications of biotechnology such as those created by cell developers on our platform.

At Ginkgo, we’ve long believed that synthetic biology is the next frontier of biotechnology and biosecurity. Countries around the world are heavily investing in this technology, and the National Security Commission on Emerging Biotechnology will help the United States better understand the needs of the domestic and global bioeconomy and the biosecurity landscape presented by the first decades of this biological century.

We applaud Armed Services Chairman Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) and Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA-9), and Ranking Members Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) and Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL-3), as well as Reps. Mike Gallagher (R-WI-8) and Seth Moulton (D-MA-6) for their bipartisan leadership in establishing this important Commission.

The End of the Beginning: Ginkgo Goes Public

Last Friday, the Ginkgo team and their families rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange announcing our debut as a publicly traded company under the NYSE ticker DNA, after raising $1.6 billion to accelerate our mission to make biology easier to engineer. You may have seen our vision of a future grown with biology covering Manhattan from Wall Street to Times Square.

Photo Credit: NYSE

But this isn’t just about our vision. What do you see when you think of the future? We want everyone to dream of a better future and then build it using biology. We’re building a platform to make biology easier to engineer, and we’re building it for you.

Ginkgo’s growth supports the entire synthetic biology ecosystem. We couldn’t have reached this point in our journey without the help of an incredible group of partners, investors, and individuals. Regardless of whether you’ve collaborated directly with us or have cheered us on from the sidelines: we’re grateful for your support.

Together, we’re engineering cells to produce essential components for mRNA vaccines to increase their access around the globe. And across the country, we’re supporting schools to safeguard their communities by helping them monitor and limit the spread of COVID-19. Our platform is unlocking access to rare and important molecules found in nature, including compounds from cannabis as well as fragrances and flavors that are difficult to extract in nature. Our platform has even been used to address the ecological challenges in the meat and dairy industry by helping create animal proteins without the need for animals.

But all of this work is just the end of the beginning. Ginkgo will continue to develop an ecosystem that supports a wide diversity of products and dreams. Together, we believe we can grow anything.

If you want to learn more, I recommend reviewing the resources on our website:
Our blog shares exciting new developments and passion projects.
Our investor website also has many resources as you look to understand Ginkgo including several presentations.

The founders and I owe a huge thank you to the Bioworkers, past and present, and their families. Without their time and effort, we would have never made it this far. Thank you for your vision, for making our platform such fertile ground: we’re looking forward to seeing how we can grow together.

Scaled Production of Cultured CBG with Cronos Group

Back in June, we announced that we had launched commercial scale production of cultured CBG and had amended our agreement in order to enable Cronos to commercialize cannabinoids ahead of reaching the originally stated productivity targets. In that press release, we wrote that Cronos Group expected that the final productivity target for CBG will be achieved prior to September 2021.

Today, I’m thrilled to announce that we’ve achieved that productivity target for the commercial-scale production of CBG! Reaching this productivity target for the strain producing the cannabigerolic acid (CBGA) molecule will support Cronos Group’s planned CBG product launch this fall. As a result of achieving this milestone, Cronos Group will issue to Ginkgo approximately 1.5 million common shares.

The CBGA molecule will be the fifth product going to market that has directly utilized the Ginkgo platform.

We’ve previously enabled or improved the commercial production of three cultured ingredients for our partners in the flavors and fragrances industry as well as for Aldevron when we improved the production efficiency for their vaccinia capping enzyme used in mRNA vaccine manufacturing.

Cell programming can enable access to rare and important molecules found in nature, including cannabinoids and many other valuable products. We’re proud to be able to help many different companies across industries develop strategies for using biology to innovate new products. We’re thrilled to see the progress our partnership with Cronos Group has made in the three years we’ve worked together and consider it a demonstration of how much can be accomplished when a leading-edge company leverages our platform.

600,000 Noses Swabbed!

As the school year comes to a close, we are reflecting on an incredibly challenging year and the incredible hard work of our team, our lab network, and the teachers, nurses, administrators, and students that have worked so hard helping to keep their communities safe with pooled testing.

In the six months since our first pilot of classroom pooling, we have swabbed over 600,000 noses at 950 schools in 19 states. Kids at these schools have become public health advocates and leaders, helping their classmates with useful swabbing tips (boogers down!) and just generally being superheroes.

With the year wrapping up, communities and families are starting to turn their attention to what school might look like in the fall. While the situation has thankfully improved across the country, we need to take action to ensure that rates continue to go down, and that we do not have to step back from any of the re-opening measures being announced by states across the country. Even as vaccination rates rise, students under the age of 12 are still waiting for approval of vaccines. To stay informed and to keep in-person learning open for as many students as possible, states and districts are making sure that regular testing is a part of their comprehensive public health plans for the fall.

We were also just selected by the state of Arizona to provide free pooled testing for any district, charter, or private school in the state that opts into the program. Support for this program and others across the country is entirely drawn from the federal American Rescue Plan funds through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which allocated $10 billion to states and territories for school testing. Arizona received approximately $219 million to “detect, diagnose, trace and monitor COVID-19 and prevent its spread” in schools, and has allocated $113.9 million for this comprehensive testing program.

Likewise, today we also announced our support for the school testing program in New Hampshire, which you can read about here.

Alongside schools in Arizona and New Hampshire, we’re part of the state-wide programs in Massachusetts, Maine, and Baltimore City and Montgomery County in Maryland. We’re also supporting pooled testing in city districts like Milwaukee, and we’re continuing to work with state and school leaders to understand their options for the fall and to make sure they have testing plans in place.

In the coming weeks, we will reach out to – and hear from – many more states and communities across the country as they set up their fall plans. With case counts going down and many regions opening up, we are optimistic for the end of the pandemic. But there’s still a lot of work left to do.

We started Concentric because everybody’s health is connected, and because the biological century needs to also be the century of biosecurity. It’s taken the incredible teamwork of citizens, scientists, medical professionals, public health experts, and countless workers and community members to get us this far. We’re incredibly grateful to all of them for being our partners and for their efforts, and we’re working everyday towards a world in which their sacrifices might not be necessary. We’re excited to get back to full density in our foundries, where we conduct our everyday business of making biology easier to engineer, and to helping families across the country get back to the everyday business of learning and working.

Launching Commercial Production of Cultured Cannabinoids with Cronos

One of the first commercial applications of cell programming that have launched off our platform is the ability to program brewing yeast so that they produce valuable ingredients during fermentation, essentially “brewing” new ingredients in a process that looks like brewing beer. These cultured ingredients can offer a more accessible and sustainable way to produce a wide array of important products, from fragrances to pharmaceuticals. Our partnership with Cronos Group, an innovative global cannabinoid company, is helping them produce a range of rare and often otherwise inaccessible cannabinoid molecules using this process.

I’m thrilled to share that Cronos is beginning their commercial production of the first such rare cultured cannabinoid product we are enabling for them, CBG. Given the progress of the program already achieved, we are amending our agreement in order to accelerate commercialization, which we hope will facilitate these products being first to market in Canada.

You can read more about our collaboration here, and view the press release here.

Taking Ginkgo Public on NYSE:DNA

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 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

Why Ginkgo Cares about Genetic Privacy

Our products were built with genetic privacy as a core ethical and design principle. We’d like to explain a bit more about our company, how we do our testing, and why we don’t collect human genetic information.

There are many reasons why people should care about their genetic privacy and who might have access to the sequences of their DNA. We take all privacy concerns very seriously, and we developed our pooled test with privacy as an essential design principle.

Our test is a public health tool designed for communities. This means the only data we’re interested in collecting or analyzing is data that will enable communities to formulate the best public health response to COVID-19. Specifically, we’re only interested in the viral RNA in the pooled samples.

At its core, our pooled test is designed to be an easy way for groups of people to swab their nostrils and receive a result. Each nasal swab is also bound to capture some biological material from each person, including small bits of their DNA. However, we have no interest—financial, scientific, or otherwise—in the human DNA that’s also present in these samples. Still, we feel it is necessary to safeguard people’s privacy through several layers of protection.

Layers of Privacy Protection

Our first layer of privacy protection begins at the school and on our website. The names of the individuals in a pooled sample cannot be entered into our website by schools. This means we never see information about which person’s swab is in which tube; we do not know this information. The participants in each tube are anonymous to us. Our HIPAA-compliant website also provides a layer of protection at the school by minimizing access to results to only people authorized by each school.

We also protect privacy in our labs. When pooled samples are sent to our network of labs, we use one of two methods to identify whether or not the virus is present in the sample. Some labs use a technique called PCR, which gives us a simple “yes” or “no” answer to whether the genes of the virus—and thus, the virus—are present in a sample. Our lab and others use PCR combined with a technique known as sequencing, which also gives us a “yes” or “no” answer. However, the sequencing process can also read and record the sequence of viral genes. This gives us more detail about the virus if it’s present in a sample, which can be useful for detecting new variants. You can read our “ELI5” explainer post on how our test works for more information.

As part of our lab testing process, we do look for a particular human gene sequence. But we only do this as a quality control measure to ensure that samples were collected correctly and that our test worked as intended. This is a common method used in viral tests to ensure quality, and we selected our quality control sequence with privacy in mind. The sequence is nearly identical in every person and can’t be used to identify individuals. The gene sequence isn’t used or recorded for any purpose other than to provide a test result.

We also do not store the sequence of this gene. Simply put: we have no interest in it nor do we have your permission to store or use this information. Other than the quality control gene sequence, we never sequence, analyze, or use the human DNA that is present in the pooled sample.

Additionally, we do not store samples for longer than what is typical for quality standards. In our lab at Ginkgo, most of the time the sample is completely used up during the testing process. If there are leftover samples, we only retain those samples for 7-14 days and only do so for the purpose of quality checks or re-running tests if necessary. Thus, we do not (and cannot) perform tests on samples for research or any other purpose.

Our test also allows us to understand how the virus is changing and gives us the ability to track new variants. We can do this by sequencing the viral RNA when it is found in a pooled sample. Comparing viral RNA sequences is how public health organizations like the CDC understand what public health measures are needed to end this pandemic. To assist this effort, we may sequence the viral RNA that is found in a pooled sample. This genetic information cannot be connected to an individual.

Everybody’s Health is Connected

Many companies have benefited from collecting personal information from individuals and exploiting that data. We started Concentric with the goal of empowering communities and enabling public health because everybody’s health is connected. We are focused on making sure that our platform is used responsibly and with care for everyone it impacts. When it comes to Concentric, we’re not interested—even remotely—in the use of human DNA, human RNA, or other human biomaterials gathered through testing.


DNA: The molecule that’s used by living things for long-term storage of genetic information. (back)

Gene: “Gene” is actually a very tricky word to define! Nowadays, it usually means the sequence that instructs a cell to make a certain product. (back)

Genetic privacy: The idea that personal genetic information must be protected from unauthorized access or use. (back)

PCR (polymerase chain reaction): A technique that makes very many copies of a piece of DNA. (back)

RNA: Like DNA, RNA can provide instructions for making certain products. But it can also do more, like help cells carry out chemical reactions. (back)

Sequence: A series of specific molecules of DNA or RNA that make up a longer strand. (back)

Sequencing: Recording the specific molecules that make up a strand of DNA or RNA. (back)