Biological flavouring and fragrance agtech firm raises $9m

Ginkgo Bioworks raised the Series A funding from a group of venture capital firms.

Organism design company Ginkgo Bioworks has raised $9 million in a Series A round of funding.

Venture capital firms Felicis Ventures, OS Fund, Data Collective, iGlobe Partners and Vast Ventures all committed to the round, according to a press release.

The company engineers microbes to produce cultured ingredients such as flavours, fragrances, cosmetics and nutritional ingredients and is part of a growing movement to replace artificially produced products with organic matter. The investment follows the acquisition of VC-backed Allylix by Swiss ingredients company Evolva for $59 million last year. Allylix produces flavours and fragrance from yeast fermentation.

Other similar technologies include MycoTechnology, which uses fungi to improve food’s nutritional value without sacrificing on taste.

Ginkgo was the first biotech start-up to come out of Y Combinator’s accelerator programme and it was part of the incubator’s summer 2014 class.

But Ginkgo is not just a biotech play; the company has just launched an automated organism engineering foundry, Bioworks1, which uses robotics and advanced software to make the process of engineering organisms scalable.

The company has also secured 20 organism design contracts and counts Fortune 500 companies among its client base, according to a press release.

“Biology will be one of the most defining and revolutionary technologies of the coming decades and will reinvent multiple industries from healthcare to energy,” said Bryan Johnson, founder of OS Fund, one of the investors. “Ginkgo Bioworks has a world-class team of engineers building the tools and infrastructure that will allow us to use biology to address global challenges for generations to come.”

Ginkgo Bioworks was founded in 2008 by Tom Knight, a renowned computer scientist and the “godfather” of synthetic biology, according to the press release. He was joined with MIT graduates Jason Kelly, Reshma Shetty, Barry Canton and Austin Che.