iGEM Design League Syn Bio Capital Tour

Three winning teams

Beginning January 24th, Ginkgo welcomed dozens of students from Mexico and Peru, all winners of iGEM Design League’s 2021 Jamboree, to Boston for a week of events. These teams designed synthetic biology solutions to local problems and were selected by iGEM Design League, which seeks to enable Latin American students to design with biology and propose solutions to global and local problems through a synthetic biology framework. In 2021, Ginkgo sponsored the championship prize for the inaugural winning teams and provided each with direct mentorship, DNA synthesis to test their projects, and a trip to Boston where they would gain exposure to synthetic biology in action. The winning teams, two from Mexico and one from Peru, tackled issues including food waste, pesticide and healthcare.

Upon arrival, the three winning teams from 2021 were given tours of Ginkgo by members of LaB+ (our Employee Resource Group for LatinX and Hispanic Bioworkers) and others to see our Foundries and meet with Bioworkers. Students then presented their projects internally for us to learn more about the students as well as give them an opportunity to hone their presentation skills.

In Partnership with iGEM Design League and Latinos in Bio

After touring Ginkgo, students and Bioworkers moved to District Hall for a panel jointly hosted by Latinos in Bio and iGEM Design League titled Accessing Careers in the Life Sciences. Reshma Shetty, our co-founder and COO, opened the event with comments about Ginkgo’s approach to DEI and her own experience founding a company. She then opened the floor to open questions before turning the stage over to the panel. Moderated by Andrew Rodriguez, former Head of Business Development, MilliporeSigma, the panel featured: Rogerio Vivaldi, CEO, Sigilon Therapeutics; Carolina Alarco, Founder and Principal, Bio Strategy Advisors; Gisselle Perez, Head of HR of the Intercontinental Region, Biogen; Geronimo Martinez, Director Internal Audit, Biogen; and Rocio Aguilar Suarez, Research Scientist, from Ginkgo Bioworks Basel team. Students from MIT, Harvard, BU and Northeastern University also attended along with members of the local Latinos in Bio community for a night of networking.

Syn Bio Capital Tour

Billed as a tour of the Syn Bio Capital, students were taken to visit Synlogic and Salvia’s corporate headquarters, and met with Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT, Katie Galloway, who led a tour of Media Labs and facilitated demonstrations with her team including Adam Beitz, Pablo Cardenas, Ceili Peng, Stefan Golas, Rick Wierenga, and Kenney Cox. The event closed off with a tour of Harpoon Brewery, our local employee-owned brewery, including a private conversation with their Assistant Vice President of Quality Control, Jaime Schier, who gave students background on how yeasts used to create signature flavors were discovered and incorporated.

Our intention with supporting this trip and iGEM Design League is to continue to support indigenous talent and build out the network of scientists that will be the future of synthetic biology. Moreover, we were able to connect members of LaB+ as well as the local community to strengthen the presence of Latinos not just at Ginkgo, but across the syn bio community in Boston and abroad. As iGEM Design League expands to include Leagues for Indonesia, North Africa/Middle East and others, we will continue to look for ways to engage and support access to synthetic biology across the globe.

What will you grow with Ginkgo?

Ginkgo Sponsors STEMNoire Conference 2022

Ginkgo is dedicated to addressing inequities in technology and society. Our collaboration with STEMNoire 2022 is the first of many joint initiatives we’ll continue to support as we build a more equitable company and culture.

Ginkgo is proud to have participated in this year’s STEMNoire: a research conference and holistic wellness retreat for women of the African diaspora in STEM. Hosted in Boston, the virtual conference reached 178 Black women in STEM across the United States and territories, including students and professionals from the academic, industry, government, and nonprofit sectors.

STEMNoire is a first-of-its-kind research conference and holistic wellness retreat for women of the African diaspora in STEM.

Working collaboratively with the STEMNoire team, Ginkgo sponsored three events during the conference: STEMbiosis at Ginkgo Bioworks; Law, Policy, & Communications: Alternative Careers in STEM; and, EmpowHERed Health is Inclusive Health. Two Ginkgo employees — Luis Ortiz and Meron Wonderad — participated in the first event to share their experiences as Black Bioworkers.

The second event was moderated by Ginkgo’s Associate General Counsel Erica Jackson and featured Synim Rivers, Sr. Director of R&D Communications at Horizon Therapeutics and former Public Health Advisor for the U.S. FDA’s Office of Minority Health, Jihan Jenkins, Associate General Counsel of Intellectual Property at Pentair, and Alyssa Blaize, Associate Director of Commercial Ops & Strategy at Ginkgo. They discussed various career opportunities that STEMNoire participants could pursue outside the lab.

Finally, Ginkgo sponsored a discussion featuring S. Mayumi Grisby, Esq., author of EmpowerHERed Health, and Meghan Venable-Thomas, DrPH, MPH, Director of Community Development, City of Birmingham. The two discussed systemic inequities that Black women face in healthcare, and ways to advocate for personal and structural  change.

“I was able to sit down with other Black women at STEMNoire to discuss the challenges & experiences Black women face in STEM fields, along with getting to expand my knowledge of bioengineering, digital tech, and what it means to be a professional in STEM.” – Ginkgo Cultivate Fellow Lataysha Walker

Dr. Malika Jeffries-El, Associate Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Boston University, joined STEMNoire leadership and the members of the incoming cohort of Cultivate Fellows for a private brunch to conclude the STEMNoire Conference. Participants had the opportunity to discuss their careers, barriers they’ve had to overcome, and ways to strengthen community in their ongoing journeys across STEM.

This event is the first of many joint events with STEMNoire that Ginkgo is excited to support as we fulfill our promise to build a more equitable company, technology, and society. We are grateful for our collaboration with the remarkable STEMNoire community and are excited to see them in Puerto Rico for next year’s conference!

What will you grow with Ginkgo?

Ginkgo Donates Chromebooks to 3 Organizations

At Gingko, we recognize that electronic waste is a large contributor to environmental racism. As we continue to grow and our needs change, we have sought ways to minimize our impact on the environment in several ways, including beginning a composting program in our community kitchen spaces and donating equipment instead of disposing of it.

This year, we had the opportunity to donate over 100 Chromebooks to three organizations. These donations not only helped to minimize our impact on the environment, but also allowed us to support organizations whose missions align with our own, including Minds of Jamaica, Kids in Tech, and the DataTrail Program.

DataTrail DataTrail is a no-cost, paid 14-week educational initiative for young-adult, high school and GED-graduates. DataTrail aims to equip members of underserved communities with the necessary skills and support required to work in the booming field of data science. Kids in Tech excites, educates, and empowers children to acquire skills and confidence in technology through interactive after school programs, helping kids develop the necessary tech skills and aptitudes to participate in and be future leaders of the 21st-century innovation economy. And finally, Minds of Jamaica is a mentorship platform that gives underrepresented minority students access to professionals in the community to provide mentorship opportunities in fields such as engineering, arts, science, technology, and more. Minds of Jamaica also offers their mentees unique training opportunities in bioinformatics and data science.

The first of these donations have begun reaching students in Jamaica and Trinidad and are already making a difference. One student, who up until now has been working from home due to COVID, has been working off of her cell phone for the last year. With our donations to Minds of Jamaica, she is now able to participate fully in her education.

We hope to continue to build our relationship with these organizations and look for other ways to reduce our environmental impact in the world while leveraging our resources to open the gates to STEM careers more widely to historically marginalized communities.



Ginkgo Sponsors BlackinX Conference

The BlackinX network hosted the first BlackinX Conference, virtually featuring keynote speakers Dr. Kilan Bishop, Dr. Keisha S. Ray and Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett. Started in response to the New York Black Birder incident, various BlackinX events was created to highlight the collective issues Black professionals face on their career journeys and to foster community for and by Black professionals.

Ginkgo was privileged and honored to sponsor the inaugural BlackinX conference bringing together Black professionals across the spectrum of skills and experiences contributing to the organization. From the opening session through Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett’s exhortation to “remember where you conquered” the conferenced helped to ensure participants pulled on the resilience and strength they have developed in arriving in the spaces they now hold.

Opening the conference on June 29 were speakers Samantha Mesah, co-founding President of #BlackinChem, Paige Greenwood, of #BlackinNeuro, Alfred Mays, of the Burroughs Welcome Fund, and Jason Kelly who shared his congratulations and thanks on behalf of Ginkgo for allowing us to support.

At Ginkgo, we recognize that there’s a serious lack of diversity in our industry, and that needs to change. Our goal is to help drive that change. Ginkgo is deeply committed to diversity, equity and inclusion in all of its practices, especially when it comes to growing our team. Our culture promotes inclusion and embraces how rewarding it is to work with people from all walks of life. Our hope is that by supporting BlackinX, we can help to remedy some of the challenges this systematically underutilized community faces, not just in Bio Engineering, but across the full spectrum of skills BlackinX supports.

Congratulations again to BlackinX organizers and we look forward to working with you as you continue to thrive.

Dr. Marta Baffy and Dr. Mackenzie Price Discuss Communications

Stemming from a series of conversations about how to make meetings more equitable and ensure that all voices are heard across the company, Ginkgo was honored to have Dr. Marta Baffy and Dr. Mackenzie Price present their research and provide a framework for inclusive communication and tips on how to communicate effectively across varying social norms. Drs Baffy and Price have extensive experience in the field of linguistics and shared key concepts, including where communication norms come from, how we learn to use language, and how we evaluate our own, and other people’s, ways of communicating. 

They shared with the team concepts to be aware of as we communicate across the company, including how people use language to communicate and how they evaluate each other. We discussed the ways leaders and peers could think about who is expected to adapt and accommodate their communications to succeed, and how to assess our own language practices to ensure an equitable flow of communication.

After the presentation, panelists opened the floor for questions and stayed for 45 minutes with Ginkgo team members to discuss strategies and challenges to open, equitable communication across the company.

Ginkgo Hosts Society of Underrepresented Biologists Panel

The Society of Underrepresented Biologists and Biological Engineers at MIT (SUBE) aims to empower underrepresented minority students in the biological and bioengineering departments at MIT by furthering their academic, social, and professional prospects and cultivating a community where diversity and inclusion are necessary and appreciated. On April 28th, Ginkgo hosted a panel and networking session featuring three Bioworkers who shared their experiences on the road to Ginkgo, including Beatriz Pacheco, Krithika Vaidyanathan, and Vinita Lukose.

Moderated by MIT student Eileen Tan-Aristy, the panel discussed how their identities shaped their experiences. While reflecting on their experiences, the panelists described how their various identities–including as immigrants, as women, or as people of color–impacted them in ways both negative and positive, that shaped their careers. Importantly, each shared the ways their experiences gave them unique strengths they bring to the field. At the end of the discussion, Eileen opened the floor to questions from students, and the discussion continued, including questions about how students could help increase access for underrepresented students coming behind, as well as what experience or opportunities they should seek out as they start on their professional journeys.

After the panel, students and Bioworkers from across the company spent time in a virtual meeting place to network. We look forward to continuing to build the relationship between SUBE and Ginkgo and hosting more events in the future.

The Cultivate Fellowship: Growing the Black STEM Community

As part of our commitment to BLM and supporting diversity in synthetic biology, we have established the Cultivate Fellowship to reduce the historical marginalization of Black students in STEM.

In the Summer of 2020, during mass protests across America, Ginkgo made a statement to stand in support of diversity in America and in our field of synthetic biology. We’re so pleased to honor that commitment in announcing the Cultivate Fellowship starting this year.

We’ve established this fellowship to support Black scholars in STEM fields. Black students earned 7 percent of STEM bachelor’s degrees as of 2018, and are underrepresented among those earning advanced degrees in STEM. Students also report high rates of leaving STEM programs due to a sense of isolation.

As part of our commitment to BLM and supporting diversity in synthetic biology, Ginkgo has two goals. First, we want to reduce the historical marginalization of Black students in STEM. Second, we want to provide networking and support opportunities for Black students in these fields.

Our Cultivate Fellowship partners with several organizations to do this. STEMNoire is an organization dedicated to supporting Black women PhDs, and Black Queer Town Hall celebrates intersection and cultivating community for Black Queer excellence in science. The Fellowship is open to first-year, undergraduate students interested in a STEM education and careers, including those students in two or four-year institutions. We will provide career path exposure including information sessions featuring Synthetic Biology, Patent Law, Biosecurity, and Ethics, among others, to present the full range of career possibilities STEM opens. Beyond the experience at Ginkgo, Fellows will continue to receive support including a stipend for books every semester through graduation.

In trying to shape the future of synthetic biology, Ginkgo is dedicated to supporting a vibrant, diverse community of scientists. The Cultivate Fellowship is aimed at redressing the historic marginalization of Black students in STEM in fulfillment of our stated commitment. STEMNoire and Black Queer Town Hall will provide mentors for the Cultivate Fellowship, serve as resources to help Bioworkers navigate their careers, and expand Ginkgo’s applicant pool.

Ginkgo’s Katherine Johnson Affinity group will select the group of Fellows to be a part of the first Cultivate Fellowship cohort.

If you are a rising Sophomore or pursuing a vertical transfer and interested in pursuing a career in STEM and would like to be a Cultivate Fellow, please apply here. Applications are due by March 15, 2022.

Applications include:

  • A personal statement of no more than 500 words explaining what this Fellowship would provide you that you could not otherwise receive.
  • A Letter of Recommendation–this can be from anyone who can speak to your motivation and character (please do not feel confined to an academic LOR. Our intent is to learn more about who you are as a person and how this Fellowship will help you).
  • Any additional information or media you think pertinent for the committee.

Black Lives Matter

Black lives matter.

Ginkgo has and will always stand for equality. We stand with the Black community against racism, systemic injustice, and police brutality.

At Ginkgo, we work with the most powerful technology on earth—biology—to solve some of the greatest challenges we all face. But science and technology are political, and deeply entrenched in systems of racism and oppression. Embedded in every technology are the biases and perspectives of the people who built it—from the history of color film to the present debates over facial recognition.

Because our technology is biology it affects everyone—our bodies, our food, our environment, our medicine. And none of these can be separated from the injustices of our society and the inequalities in public health, food systems, and the impacts of pollution and climate change. We must ensure that both the risks and the benefits of synthetic biology are justly distributed.

A first step is making sure that the people building the technology reflect the diversity of those who will be impacted by it. We’ve long sought to be transparent about our efforts towards diversity within the synthetic biology community, and have committed to increasing the diversity on our team. But our efforts have been far from enough. Today, only 2% of our team identifies as Black or African American. This has to change.

Simply putting more efforts into hiring a diverse team and creating inclusive environments, as important as that is, is also not enough. We must also examine the technologies we develop, urgently, openly, and inclusive of the ecosystems we are part of—our communities and our natural environment. We must incorporate the diverse voices and visions of all those who play a role in the future of biology.

So as we continue to build our platform, and especially as we build diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines for COVID-19, which is disproportionately impacting communities of color, we are committing $1M towards building a more equitable company, technology, and society. This will take many forms, from programs for recruiting, training, and inclusion within Ginkgo, to supporting and sponsoring organizations that promote the inclusion of marginalized communities in biotechnology.

We plan on sharing more about our efforts in the weeks to come. We will continue to reflect on this today during #ShutDownSTEM #strike4blacklives and every day until there is justice, knowing our response to systemic racism cannot be tied to a singular action or announcement.

We call upon our peers in the biology industry to do the same and to our community to hold us accountable for meeting these goals.