New Platform Ventures: Launching Verb Biotics, Ayana Bio

Today we’re announcing the launch of two new companies via the Ferment Consortium: Verb Biotics and Ayana Bio.

Verb—a probiotics innovation company—will focus on identifying and designing new strains of probiotic bacteria with advanced properties for human nutrition, health, and wellness. Ayana plans to support human health and wellness by harnessing bioactive compounds for use as complementary medicine.

Verb Biotics
The probiotics category is a $50B global industry that’s growing rapidly. As awareness and understanding of the human microbiome—the trillions of bacteria that live in and on your body—has grown over the past decade, there’s been tremendous interest in probiotic-enhanced foods, beverages, and supplements. Many existing probiotic products use strains of bacteria common to yogurt and other fermented products, but these strains have a number of challenges including limited shelf life, poor stability, and restrictive metabolic profiles.

Since Ginkgo has significant expertise in the discovery and design of microbes with a wide array of functions, Verb plans to leverage our high-throughput platform to perform sequencing, proteomics and metabolomics analysis, pathway design, cell culturing, and fermentation work in order to improve the design and development of probiotics.

Verb is launching with $30 million in Series A funding provided by Viking Global Investors and Cascade Investment.

Ayana Bio
To address issues ranging from supporting a healthy immune system, to aiding metabolism, to promoting healthy aging, consumers are looking for health products that are complementary to conventional medicine. Two categories of products that offer complementary health products—nutraceuticals and traditional medicines—represent over $400 billion.

The bioactive ingredients that go into products in these categories come from a range of natural sources such as medicinal plants and fungi. However, unsustainable harvesting, variability in the source organisms, and the methods of preparation all contribute to uncertainty around these important molecules and limit the potential for widespread use.

Ayana plans to collaborate with global industry leaders in consumer packaged goods, supplements, specialized nutrition, over-the-counter medicines, and traditional medicines to bring to market standardized bioactives that provide consumers with confidence in quality and reliability. Our cell programming platform will support Ayana’s mission to bring to market high purity, clean and reliable medicinal bioactives in convenient forms.

Ayana is launching with $30 million in Series A funding provided by Viking Global Investors and Cascade Investment.

Ferment Consortium
The Ferment Consortium is a company creation studio that works with Viking Global Investors and Cascade Investment to help incubate, fund, and launch new companies that use cell programming to support human and environmental health and wellbeing. (Psst! If you have a great idea of how to grow the future, Ferment Co would love to hear from you.)

Verb and Ayana join our other Platform Ventures: Joyn Bio, Allonnia, and Motif FoodWorks, which recently raised a $226 million Series B round led by Ontario Teachers Pension Plan and BlackRock.

Accelerating Production of Essential Medicines with Antheia

Partnership enables Antheia to broaden its pipeline of critical active pharmaceutical ingredients and key starting materials

Nearly half of all medicines today are sourced from nature, and many of the most widely used essential medicines are sourced directly from medicinal plants. The World Health Organization classifies “essential medicines” as medicines “that satisfy the priority healthcare needs of the population.”

But the supply chains for some of our most critical plant-based medicines are quite fragile. The specialty plants that are currently used to produce these medicines can require years to grow and harvest, and uncontrollable factors — such as weather — affect availability and reliability of supply. Transporting and processing adds more cost, complexity, and risk. In short, our reliance on specialty plants comes with many supply chain risks. When there’s extreme demand or a constrained supply, many plant-based medicines, including widely used analgesics and sedatives, can quickly become in short supply. We recently saw this occur during the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, extracting medicines from specialty plants can be very expensive; the high cost of production means many developing countries cannot afford some of these essential medicines.

Synthetic biology platforms, such as those created by Antheia and Ginkgo, make it possible for critical medicines to be produced on-demand in a much more efficient and environmentally friendly process. Additionally, when it comes to plant-based pharmaceuticals, biomanufacturing has significant advantages in supply chain resiliency and agility, cost, quality control, sustainability, and efficiency compared to conventional crop farming and processing. Synthetic biology gives us an additional way to grow these essential medicines.

Antheia, who is enabling next-generation plant-inspired medicines, and Ginkgo, with our leading horizontal platform for cell programming, are announcing today a new cell programming partnership to accelerate the development and production of essential medicines using synthetic biology. Antheia plans to leverage our industry-agnostic platform — specifically, our high-throughput enzyme design and high-throughput screening capabilities — to broaden their pipeline of critical active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) and key starting materials (KSMs).

Antheia will leverage Ginkgo’s industry-agnostic platform — specifically, our high-throughput enzyme design and high-throughput screening capabilities.

Kristy Hawkins, CSO and co-founder at Antheia had this to share about the news: “We’re committed to using synthetic biology to enable more equitable access to essential medicines. By partnering with Ginkgo, a global leader in organism engineering, we are greatly increasing our ability to develop essential medicines at the speed and scale necessary to drive change in global pharma supply chains.”

Antheia’s focus is on plant-inspired pharmaceuticals that are too complex to be produced through scaled synthetic chemistry processes. They’ve managed to efficiently produce highly-complex pharmaceuticals by pioneering whole-cell engineering, a technique that reconstructs multiple steps of a biosynthetic pathway of unprecedented complexity in yeast cells. This partnership with Ginkgo enables Antheia to tap into a set of complementary capabilities and resources at Ginkgo to create synergies that allows Antheia to achieve more with its own technology platform. Through our partnership, Antheia plans to leverage Ginkgo’s extensive and rapid cell programming platform and biological codebase to greatly expand and accelerate its strain and enzyme engineering work.

Both organizations are committed to using biology to build a better future, and we look forward to a long lasting partnership and positive impact in the world. We believe Antheia is at the cutting edge of using synthetic biology to produce entire classes of medicines that were previously inaccessible; we’re thrilled that Ginkgo’s platform can support innovators like Antheia and create next generation manufacturing technologies for essential medicines.

Optimizing Key Components in Vaccine Production for a Global Market

Overview

Our partner faced significant challenges in scaling up vaccine production to meet global demand due to insufficient yields in both upstream fermentation and downstream processing.

Ginkgo Bioworks’s cell engineering platform streamlined our partner’s fermentation and processing, resulting in substantial increases in efficiency and yield. Within ten months, our partner saw improvements that ensured they could meet their aggressive commercialization timelines.


The challenge

Our partner, a vaccine developer, was looking to commercialize its vaccine supply for global distribution. Their initial vaccine development had been very successful. However, when scaling up for commercial production for the global market, they found that the upstream fermentation and downstream processing for a key component of their vaccine was not achieving their target yields. In order to meet their aggressive commercialization timeline, they needed to boost their production of this key component.

Our work

Ginkgo Bioworks focused on revamping our customer’s manufacturing process through a series of large-scale Design of Experiments (DoE). This approach allowed us to understand which parts of upstream and downstream processing had major effects on our partner’s final yield. Ginkgo collaborated with our partner to onboard and optimize their manufacturing process while keeping an eye towards the constraints on COGS for their commercialization.

The work was carried out in four stages:

Identifying Critical Process Parameters (CPPs)
This initial phase focused on understanding the key variables that influence the fermentation and downstream processes. Ginkgo leveraged the Ambr 250 fermentation vessels in our Foundry to provide data for the DoE we designed; we performed DSP optimization using material that was produced from these experiments.

Modeling Interactions Between CPPs
After identifying CPPs, our engineers developed models to predict how changes in these parameters could optimize the manufacturing process. Again, we leveraged our Foundry to test how these variables affected final yield.

Refinement and Validation of Predicted Optima
After developing base processes, we refined our work, using our extensive knowledge-base on fermentation and process optimization, to find other changes that could streamline the final process, which may not have been accounted for in our DoEs.

Robustness Testing and Further Validation
Although our development work gave improved results, we tested to make certain that our end-to-end process could be easily on-boarded at a wide variety of production facilities and was robust with respect to variations in temperatures, pH, or variable media at third-party manufacturing facilities.

Outcome

Increased fermentation efficiency
The optimized process that we developed demonstrated a >4-fold improvement in titers over our partner’s original process.

Batch yield improvement
Our revamped fermentation process, together with downstream process refinement, resulted in an overall 3-fold increase in batch yield.

Successful technology transfer
The optimized process was transferred to the customer’s Contract Manufacturing Organization (CMO), with validation runs confirming the anticipated 3-fold increase in performance at both Ginkgo and the CMO’s facilities. The three-way collaboration between Ginkgo, our partner and their CMO verified that our processes worked at the 1000L scale.

Rapid development cycle
Our work, from onboarding our partner’s process, to beginning to transfer our processes to our partner’s Contract Manufacturing Organization (CMO) was accomplished within 10 months of initiating the collaboration. We developed processes that resulted in a 3x increase in yield and ensured that our partner was able to scale-up and move on to commercialization on their intended timeline.

Work with us

Commercial manufacturing is often viewed through the lens of fixed costs of producing a product at scale. Yet in many cases, the key to maximizing the output of these fixed costs lies in optimizing the underlying biological processes. Ginkgo Bioworks’s cell engineering platform provides these biological solutions. Our Foundry brings together a collection of state-of-the-art technologies, tied together with automated workflows that are geared for efficient biological engineering and process development. Partnering with Ginkgo means gaining access to this technology without the costly investments in laboratory space and specialized equipment. Ginkgo engineers biology to transform your manufacturing challenges into competitive advantages.