Tracking Pathogen Variants with Rwanda Biomedical Centre

Monitoring for COVID-19 variants at Kigali International Airport

We’re excited to announce that we’re partnering with the Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC) on a one-year pathogen monitoring program at Rwanda’s Kigali International Airport (KGL) to identify new and emerging viral variants.

Adding a new node to our pathogen monitoring network

Concentric by Ginkgo and RBC will collaborate to detect the virus on arriving international flights. We’ll sample aircraft wastewater and collect nasal swabs from travelers on a voluntary, anonymous basis. Our aim is to provide critical early warning public health insights to help inform strategies in Rwanda and beyond.

Ginkgo and RBC will work together to establish KGL as a new node in a global network of pathogen monitoring infrastructure, complementing the insights generated from Concentric’s existing travel biosecurity programs at several major international airports in the U.S. The program builds on Ginkgo’s previously announced MOU to develop and implement biosecurity capabilities in Rwanda.

A public health radar to inform targeted response strategies

Mitigating the risk of biological threats, including emerging viral variants, remains a global imperative that necessitates a robust early warning system. This pathogen monitoring program at Kigali International Airport will act like a public health radar, providing leaders with near-real-time data to inform targeted response strategies. We are excited to be partnering with the Rwanda Biomedical Centre—to stay ahead of the next variant or pathogen of concern, we must take an international approach to biosecurity.

RBC is Rwanda’s national health implementation agency, established in 2011 to improve the health of the Rwandan population by providing high quality, affordable and sustainable health care services. Ginkgo will support the end-to-end collection and analysis workflow with materials, training and logistical support, digital platform and data reporting, as well as bioinformatics and decision support services; RBC will contribute on-the-ground operational support for sample collection, testing, and sequencing.

Prof. Claude Muvunyi, the Director General of the Rwanda Biomedical Centre said, “As we continue to feel the impacts of emerging variants and pathogens, we recognize the need to create a sustainable public health and biosecurity infrastructure in Rwanda and internationally. We are thrilled to launch this program at Kigali International Airport in partnership with Ginkgo to enhance our biosecurity capabilities.”

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

What will you grow with Ginkgo?

Detecting Engineered Biology with IARPA & Draper

New technologies to detect engineered DNA

We’re proud to announce the completion of IARPA’s Finding Engineering-Linked Indicators (FELIX) — a program created to augment and improve current biodetection and biosurveillance capabilities. The program was a collaboration between the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA; the research and development arm of the U.S. Intelligence community), Draper (a nonprofit engineering innovation firm), and Ginkgo.

We’ve developed a suite of new computational tools for FELIX, while Draper has developed a new experimental platform to help detect and identify when samples include genetically engineered biological systems. The results from the program will be presented on October 17, 2022 at 11am on YouTube.

Current methods for detecting signs of biological engineering are typically costly, slow, and capable of detecting only a subset of all possible genetic modifications. In collaboration with IARPA, Ginkgo developed an initial set of computational tools called ENDAR (Engineered Nucleotide Detection and Ranking) that assist trained analysts to identify genetic engineering in next generation sequencing (NGS) datasets. This software aims to make it possible for scientists to detect engineered DNA at scale.

Breakthrough for biosecurity

“Through their work on the FELIX program, Ginkgo and Draper have achieved two major breakthroughs for the biodetection community,” said David A. Markowitz, Program Manager at IARPA. “The ability to detect genetic engineering in complex biological samples has long been a moonshot goal, and these new capabilities are poised to transform national biosecurity efforts.”

Designed to work across a range of biological organisms that may be found in complex, multi-species environments, ENDAR tools and methods could provide early alerts to the presence of engineered organisms and help expedite appropriate responses, thereby mitigating adverse consequences.

Ginkgo has a core belief in the promise of engineered biology—a thriving bio-based economy that delivers benefits to society, the environment, and our health. We care deeply about securing that vision by ensuring that biology is engineered and deployed responsibly. Working with IARPA, we’ve developed a fundamentally new biosecurity capability that will enhance our ability to detect, characterize, and respond to biological threats. We’re excited to explore opportunities to deploy ENDAR as an integral component of our global biosecurity platform.

Draper’s contributions to FELIX, under its contract with IARPA, include development of a lab-based genetic test, a custom bioinformatics pipeline that contextualizes DNA sequencing data and miniaturized microarray hardware all with the goal of characterizing otherwise impossible to detect genetic engineering. Potential applications include biothreat detection, environmental monitoring, and food inspection.

“At Draper, we believe that advances in gene editing technology are creating new opportunities for biosecurity,” said Laura Seaman, Principal Scientist and Machine Intelligence group leader at Draper. “Under the FELIX program, we have developed a device and associated lab and computational methods that are sensitive enough to pick out an engineered organism in a complex environmental background containing millions of natural organisms—the signal-to-noise ratio is a significant improvement over current methods.”

The event featured a panel with participants including, Catherine Marsh, IARPA Director; David A. Markowitz, IARPA Program Manager; Joshua Dunn, Head of Design, Ginkgo Bioworks; Laura Seaman, Principal Scientist and Machine Intelligence Group Leader, at Draper; and Erin Rosenberger, Senior Member of Technical Staff, Biological Microsystems Group, at Draper. During the panel, the panelists will discuss the program findings and also feature a demo of the research results.

Watch a livestream of the presentation of results from the FELIX program on October 17, 2022 at 11am here.

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

What will you grow with Ginkgo?

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?

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.

Expanding Ginkgo’s Platform for Biosecurity and Pandemic Responsiveness

We’re thrilled to announce that Ginkgo Bioworks was recently approved for a loan of up to $1.1B from the US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) to expand our biosecurity and pandemic response platform at Ginkgo. Biotechnological platforms like Ginkgo’s can be repurposed in a biological emergency, and we have been honored to be able to contribute our technology to efforts combating the pandemic.

Back in March, we opened our platform up to do $25M of free work with companies and researchers working on the response to COVID-19. Many great partnerships came out of that initiative, including our work with Moderna to help optimize their vaccine manufacturing process, and our joint efforts with Totient to hunt for virus-neutralizing antibodies for COVID-19. We synthesized expression vectors for key viral proteins to support academic researchers and deposited them in Addgene for free distribution and used our NGS platform to do whole genome sequencing to support the Utah Department of Health in using genomics to support epidemiology.

We worked with the NIH RADx program on developing new methods for testing, invested to expand Access Bio’s New Jersey-based antigen test manufacturing facility to support more widespread rapid testing, and launched our end-to-end testing service, Concentric by Ginkgo, to do testing in non-traditional settings like schools and workplaces. We worked with the non-profit Immune Observatory to provide free base-line testing to staff at MA K-12 schools this fall. Our goal is to make testing costs low enough for weekly testing of people without symptoms, using methods like pooled testing in settings such as K-12 classrooms. Though vaccines are thankfully on the horizon, testing remains a vital tool for understanding and managing the spread of COVID-19.

Even as we pour our efforts into emerging from this crisis, we need to consider how the infrastructure and tools we are building now can grow to prevent future pandemics and keep us healthy and safe in the long-term. With support from the DFC, we will expand our platform to be part of a lasting biosecurity capability for the US. Simply put, your email inbox shouldn’t have more virus protection than you do.

Webinar: University Leaders on Testing

As universities slowly begin to reopen, institutions face difficult decisions about when and how to bring students back to campus. But even in this uncharted territory, university leaders are coming up with clever solutions to protect students, staff, and the surrounding community. In partnership with the leading news outlet for colleges and universities, The Chronicle of Higher Education, we recently had the opportunity to hear from several senior administrators at universities from across the country about the COVID-19 strategies that have allowed students to return to in-person learning. This webinar featured leaders from Vassar College, Fayetteville State University, Kenyon College, University of Vermont, and University of South Carolina. Read on for the highlights and key lessons from the conversation, or watch the replay here.

Test promptly and frequently

Throughout the conversation, it was clear from all the panelists that providing COVID-19 testing services to students, faculty, and staff is key to successfully reopening and bringing students back on campus. Offering prompt testing to everyone who needs it is a critical part of ensuring that campuses can not only reopen, but stay open. These university leaders have deployed a mix of PCR-based testing and rapid antigen testing on their campuses, allowing them to catch individual cases – and support positive cases with quarantine and recovery measures – before they turn into full-blown outbreaks that would force the campus to close again.

While testing at a regular cadence is the core of most reopening strategies, that doesn’t mean that a single plan works for every community. By tailoring their approach to the unique needs of their own communities, university leaders are able to find what works best for them. Vassar College’s President Elizabeth Bradley recommended a paper titled, “Reopening Colleges During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic—One Size Does Not Fit All” to help determine the best path forward for your institution based on its individual characteristics, such as size and geographical location. With its robust testing program, Fayetteville State University was able to bring its case count down significantly, according to the school’s Director of Student Health, Vinette Gordon.

Interestingly, some campuses like Kenyon College and University of South Carolina have also leveraged wastewater testing as another form of assurance in their COVID-19 strategy. Testing wastewater for the SARS-CoV-2 virus provides valuable information on the health of the campus community and can help catch cases early on. For example, Kenyon College President, Sean Decatur says they noticed an elevated reading in their wastewater testing results—an early warning sign of a potential outbreak. They were able to step up testing efforts in response, allowing them to catch a new positive case that they might have otherwise missed without that early warning.

Partner and pool to lower the cost

Making testing accessible for every member of the campus community is a top concern for universities across the country. But scaling up testing to cover an entire community is no easy task. Many campuses are struggling with a lack of funding and resources to begin testing at the scale required to reopen and stay open.

The panelists discussed several ways they’ve been able to bring testing to their campuses despite budget constraints. Largely, partnerships with local health departments, neighboring universities, and state and federal bodies have been critical in securing the tests and financing required for large-scale, on-campus testing. The panelists were excited about the prospect of low-cost, rapid antigen tests becoming more widely available and their potential to bring down overhead as they look to the spring semester.

Another promising strategy that aims to bring down the cost of testing is pooling. Pooling allows you to collect samples from several people in a community and screen them with a single test—maximizing that test’s reach. By testing multiple people at once, you can save on the time and cost of running multiple, individual tests. And if a pooled test comes back positive, you know to send that specific cohort back for individual testing. Pooling has the potential to dramatically reduce the resources spent on testing and get results to more people, faster.

“Students must be partners in a school’s COVID-19 response plan in order for it to be effective.”

Collaborate with students and the community

Another theme that emerged throughout the discussion was the importance of collaboration on and off campus. The ultimate takeaway? Students must be partners in a school’s COVID-19 response plan in order for it to be effective.

University of South Carolina’s Executive Director of Student Health Services and the Healthy Carolina Wellness Program, Debbie Beck, recommended getting the student body government involved to make sure their voices are heard in developing the plan from day one. Vassar College professionally trained students from its EMS and paramedic departments to help with contact tracing. They also shared that, of course, you can never underestimate the power of swag with a college community. What these academic leaders have seen is that students want to be on campus and are willing to comply with testing and other safety measures, like distancing and masking, to return to their everyday lives – activating the student body plays an invaluable role in ensuring participation.

The panelists also emphasized the importance of engaging their stakeholders: adjacent communities, businesses, families, and individuals who regularly visit or otherwise interact with their campus. Communicating and working with the local community to ensure their concerns are heard and met is critical. In an effort to better collaborate with their local community in Burlington, University of Vermont President, Suresh V. Garimella says they developed a website where community members could voice their concerns. In an effort to help boost the local economy, Vassar College came up with creative ways for businesses to sell food and beverages on campus in a way that safeguards the health of both students and the broader community.

These five universities have been outstanding examples of how to effectively craft and implement on-campus COVID-19 testing programs, and for testing in the U.S. more broadly. Our testing service, Concentric by Ginkgo, is committed to providing a range of testing options designed to fit each community’s unique needs. If you’re interested in bringing PCR or antigen testing to your campus, contact us today at


Our New Seaport Test Center: Expanding Access to COVID-19 Diagnostic Testing in Boston

Concentric by Ginkgo recently opened its first public test center in Boston’s Seaport District. The new center is expanding access to COVID-19 diagnostic testing for workplaces and organizations of all sizes. Many organizations need employees on-site daily in order to operate. It’s crucial for these companies to have a convenient way to test employees and identify individual COVID-19 cases before they turn into widespread, disruptive outbreaks.

The test center located on the ground floor of the Innovation and Design Building is currently open to customer organizations and their participants Monday through Friday from 7:30am to 5:30pm. Any organization interested in accessing the service can contact the Concentric team to sign up. Concentric provides diagnostic testing in a comfortable setting that can be built into your team’s workday. Over time, the center will also explore offering different types of COVID-19 tests to meet a wide range of needs.

New Normal: Comfortable Testing

Concentric’s service prioritizes a test taker’s comfort and experience. We aim to make testing a familiar, easy experience rather than an unfamiliar, time-consuming activity. Individuals from customer organizations can easily request a test through our online portal, stop by the center to quickly take a test in a comfortable and private setting, and continue on with their day. The results are typically returned in 3 days or less. As public health experts have explained, the information that testing provides can help businesses identify infectious individuals with the goal of reducing transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace. The goal is to remove the stress, inconvenience, and discomfort from COVID-19 testing while providing access to testing when it’s needed.

Concentric’s Test Center is located in one of Boston’s largest business districts, which means our customers vary in size and industry, ranging from food service companies to manufacturers to large corporations. Concentric by Ginkgo offers affordable diagnostic testing options that can be accessed as needed: organizations can purchase a specific number of tests and then send employees in when testing is necessary.

Exploring the Latest Testing Innovations

Concentric by Ginkgo is exploring innovative types of COVID-19 tests in order to meet the different needs of organizations like workplaces and universities that require people on-site every day. While the majority of testing at the Seaport location is done using saliva as the collection method, we’ll soon be exploring antigen tests and shallow nasal swab methods (as opposed to deep nasal swabs). We’re consistently reviewing our processes and offerings to ensure we’re providing the best testing service to our customers.

Many organizations need to remain operational while the COVID-19 pandemic persists. Industries that support our critical infrastructure, our communities, and our ways of life all benefit from better access to testing. By removing barriers like low local test supply, lengthy turnaround times, and inconvenience, organizations can arm themselves with the knowledge they need to make better proactive and reactive decisions in their COVID-19 response plans.

For more information on how to access the testing service at the Concentric Test Center, contact us at

Needle in a Haystack: Looking for Compounds to Treat COVID-19

In late March, a group of researchers at the University of California, San Francisco published a preprint describing a protein-protein interaction map that could find potential drug targets against SARS-CoV-2. Their study looked for interactions between every viral protein and every human protein, with the idea that molecules known to bind those human proteins might disrupt the interaction with the viral protein, therefore interfering with the viral life cycle. Several hundred hits were identified, and of those hits, over 50 protein targets had known small molecule binding partners, so-called “druggable” targets. These small molecules could potentially interfere with viral protein binding and therefore be repurposed against COVID-19. One interaction was observed between the viral protein Nsp13 and human centrosomal protein 250 (CEP250), a protein target previously predicted to be too flat for small molecule drugs to bind to it and therefore “undruggable”.

Several years ago, our team at Warp Drive Bio performed a very different high throughput screen, searching for human proteins that could bind to a novel natural product that the team had discovered. The molecule, called WDB002, is made by a species of soil-dwelling Streptomyces bacteria that was identified using Warp Drive Bio’s genome mining technology. WDB002 was found to be a strong binder to a little appreciated human protein called CEP250 — the same protein identified in the recent SARS-CoV-2 study! WDB002 first binds to another human protein, FKBP12, which then forms a tight three-part complex with a portion of CEP250.

In October 2018, Revolution Medicines bought Warp Drive Bio, and Ginkgo then acquired the Warp Drive genome mining platform from Revolution Medicines in January 2019. Today PNAS published an article authored by members of the former Warp Drive Bio team, showing how WBD002 and its related molecules can bind to the “coiled-coil” domain in CEP250, in complex with FKBP12 via binding studies and crystal structures. These coiled-coil domains are very “flat” and therefore notoriously difficult targets for drug discovery, which makes the tri-complex modality potentially useful for finding leads against other so-called “undruggable” disease targets.

As for CEP250’s role in COVID-19, we don’t know yet whether WDB002 will be useful for treating the virus, but Ginkgo is committed to finding out. Revolution Medicines has licensed intellectual property to Ginkgo to answer this question. Our team has already produced a batch of pure WDB002 from Streptomyces. Now, we are testing how it behaves in an in vitro live virus assay in collaboration with research groups that can perform these studies at biosafety level 3. It’s been exciting to be part of the story of WDB002, from when it was first discovered to exploring its potential as an antiviral. Despite the unknowns inherent in drug discovery and development, it is inspiring to witness Ginkgo’s ability to apply its platform towards vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics for COVID-19. We hope to share news about the WDB002 project in the coming months.

Concentric by Ginkgo: COVID-19 testing at scale

To learn more about how Concentric by Ginkgo can support you and your organization, please contact us.

Today we’re thrilled to announce the launch of Concentric by Ginkgo. Concentric offers COVID-19 testing at scale to support schools and businesses in their reopening strategies and provides end-to-end, on-site testing services for organizations that seek to make testing available to their communities.

Everybody’s health is connected. Many layers of public health response are necessary to predict, understand, control, and eventually end a pandemic. Testing is a major pillar of such a response and increased testing capacity is critical for enabling informed public health decisions and contact tracing programs. While national capacity has grown significantly in recent weeks, there is still a large, unmet need for more testing, and experts believe that millions of tests per day are needed for the United States to contain and slow the spread of COVID-19.

We’re developing large-scale testing capacity for Concentric by Ginkgo with next generation sequencing (NGS), which allows us to read, process and analyze many DNA and RNA samples in parallel on one machine. You can read more about the differences in testing methods in our white paper. We’re also working toward obtaining an Emergency Use Authorization for a COVID-19 test for our CLIA certified laboratory with the goal of scaling testing further. At the present time, to serve current reopening needs of businesses and educational organizations, Concentric by Ginkgo will work with other CLIA-certified labs offering RT-PCR based tests to make on-site testing programs available immediately.

We chose the name Concentric to highlight the interconnected communities we exist in, the different layers of proximity each of us have, and the ripples of impact that our choices send out into the world. As we grow Ginkgo, we’re excited to expand our foundries to enable more cell programming projects across many industries, now alongside Concentric.

Read more on Concentric’s efforts in our CNBC article and interview. To learn more about partnering with Concentric by Ginkgo to support your organization’s COVID-19 testing strategy, visit to contact us.

How to Deploy Millions of COVID-19 Tests Per Day

There is broad agreement within the public health community that the path out of the COVID-19 lockdown is through widespread testing to catch new infections, tracing to find everyone who may have been infected, and supported isolation to prevent further spread of the virus. There is little agreement, however, that the technology and infrastructure exists today to meet that need.

With so much at stake—countless lives and billions of dollars—speed is of the essence in scaling up COVID-19 testing. We’ve put together a brief white paper providing an assessment of existing and emerging testing methods and outlines a path by which the United States can rapidly scale up the infrastructure that enables millions of tests per day.

To rapidly increase the scale of COVID-19 testing, the United States should:

  • Continue to scale up testing methods already in use, such as RT-qPCR as well as isothermal nucleic acid methods, by expanding the number of testing machines and kits.
  • Leverage the country’s vast genomic sequencing capacity by repurposing it to dramatically augment testing capacity.
  • Invest in the development of massively distributable, cheap, point-of-use tests, such as antigen-based tests, and be prepared to deploy them as soon as they become available.
  • Make testing widely available, beginning with those at highest risk, regardless of symptoms, insurance reimbursement, or other impediments.
  • Scale up testing to enable screening of significant portions of the workforce and integrate screening effectively with contact tracing.


You can access a PDF version of our report here. We welcome your feedback—please reach out to us at [email protected].