Cell Programming Company Ginkgo Bioworks Raises $70 Million

By Dan Anderson • May 30, 2020
  • Ginkgo Bioworks announced recently that it raised $70 million in funding

Ginkgo Bioworks announced recently that it raised $70 million in funding from Illumina and existing investors General Atlantic and Viking Global Investors. This funding will enable Ginkgo to build the infrastructure that could enable rapid epidemic response. And large-scale testing is essential for slowing the spread of viruses.

In the case of COVID-19, experts are suggesting millions of tests are needed per day to control the pandemic. And Ginkgo aims to achieve unprecedented scale with its automation capabilities thus utilizing Illumina’s next-generation sequencing (NGS) technology to enable widespread testing for COVID-19. 

NGS was originally designed for sequencing the 3 billion base pair human genome and the equipment can read, process and analyze many DNA and RNA samples in parallel on one machine. Plus these machines can be utilized to detect the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus thus enabling tens of thousands of tests to be run at the same time on equipment the size of a washing machine.

While paired with Ginkgo’s hardware and software that is designed for the large-scale automation of biological experiments, NGS has the potential to significantly increase COVID-19 testing capacity and it contributes to the testing volume that many public health experts believe is necessary for slowing the spread of the virus.

Ginkgo is deploying its resources toward building an epidemic monitoring and diagnostic testing facility in its Boston Seaport labs, which develops processes that use Illumina’s NGS technology for large-scale testing along with whole genome sequencing and environmental monitoring. Currently in an early build phase, Ginkgo is aiming to have NGS-based testing capacity available to help reopen schools and businesses. Plus Ginkgo has already made its current NGS capacity available at no cost to public health departments across the U.S.

“As programmers of DNA, we recognize rapid pandemic response as an essential technology that must be built alongside biological engineering,” said Ginkgo Bioworks co-founder and CEO Jason Kelly. “The infrastructure we are building for next-generation sequencing is critical for responding to the current pandemic, as well as providing early detection and response for the future.”