Is the story of Ginkgo Bioworks synthetic biology worth $15 billion?


“When a young biotech company has the ability to hire people to write irrelevant magazine-style articles, the times must be good,” Sneaky Dirk Haussecker, a shrewd biotech stock picker active on Twitter.

Kelly said the magazine was inspired by Think, A journal that IBM began printing in the 1930s. “Why do they do this? Well, no one knows what a computer is,” Kelly said. He believes that ginkgo plays a similar role as a disseminator of the possibility of genetic engineering.

period podcastStat News reporters likened Ginkgo to a “memetic stock” or “stonk”, and its positioning is to attract investment from the public to chase trends without considering business fundamentals. When the SPAC transaction is finally finalized-sometime in September-the company will trade under the ticker symbol “DNA”, which was once owned by Genentech, an early hero in biotechnology. “Ginkgo Bioworks should not use DNA codes,” said Adam Feuerstein, a Stat stock reporter.

SPAC is a Wall Street Trends This provides an IPO route with less scrutiny of the company’s financial prospects than usual. Will Gornall, a professor at the University of British Columbia’s School of Business, believes that they democratize investors’ access to popular industries, but they may also overestimate the value of the company.Some transactions, such as The one that listed Richard Branson’s space company Virgin Galactic Holdings, Has done well, but the five electric car companies listed through SPAC subsequently suffered what Bloomberg called “brutal“correct.

Gornall can see the logic of gamblers’ gambling on Ginkgo. In recent years, stock market profits have been driven by only a few technology companies, including Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft—each company now has a market value of more than $1 trillion. “If the probability of biology becoming the computer of the future is only 1%, and this company achieves this goal, then the valuation makes sense,” Gornall said.

Someone else’s product

Since its establishment, Ginkgo has spent nearly $5 billion, most of which is used to build laboratories equipped with precision laboratory instruments such as robots, gene sequencers, and mass spectrometers. These “foundries” allow it to test genes added to microorganisms (usually yeast) or other cells. It claims that it can create 50,000 different genetically modified cells in one day. A typical goal of an foundry project is to evaluate which of the hundreds of versions of a given gene is particularly good at, for example, converting sugar into a specific chemical substance. Kelly said that customers can use Ginkgo’s services instead of building their own laboratories.

What is missing from Ginkgo’s story is any blockbuster products produced by its research services. “If you label yourself’synbio’, you are setting high standards for success-you are saying you are going to the moon,” Koeris said. “You have raised so much money for a fantastic vision, and soon you will need a transformative product, whether it’s a drug or some crazy industrial product.”

Kelly said that so far, ginkgo’s yeast cell engineering has achieved the commercial production of three flavor molecules. Robert Weinstein, president and CEO of the US branch of fragrance and additive manufacturer Robertet, confirmed that his company now uses yeast designed by Kelly to ferment two such molecules. One is γ-decanolactone, which has a strong peach scent. The other is Masoia lactone, a clear liquid that is usually separated from the bark of tropical trees. Used as a condiment, it can be sold online for US$1,200 per kilo. Running fermenters throughout the year can produce this specialty chemical worth millions of dollars.

Biological engineer: The five founders of Ginkgo Bioworks met at MIT. From left: Reshma Shetty, Barry Canton, Jason Kelly, Austin Che, Tom Knight.

Ginkgo Biology

For Harvard Medical School professor George Church, such products have not yet fulfilled the promise of synthetic biology that will broadly change manufacturing. “I think flavors and fragrances are a far cry from the vision that biology can make anything,” Church said. Kelly also sometimes tried to reconcile the “destructive” potential of synthetic biology he saw with the achievements of Ginkgo.The church caught my attention The Boston Globe reported in May Regarding the merger of Ginkgo and Flying Eagle. In it, Kelly said his company is an attractive investment because the world is becoming familiar with the extraordinary potential of synthetic biology, and cited the covid-19 vaccine made from messenger RNA and the animal-free in the new plant hamburger Egg whites, such as those from Impossible.

“This article is a list of achievements, but the most interesting achievements come from other people,” Church said. “To me, it doesn’t seem to add up to $15 billion.” Nonetheless, Church stated that he hopes Ginkgo will succeed.The company is not only his “favorite unicorn”, but Obtain the remains After some of his own synthetic biology startups went bankrupt (he also recently sold a company to Zymergen). He said that the future performance of Ginkgo “can help our entire field, but also hurt our entire field.”

Although Ginkgo’s work did not result in any blockbuster films, Kelly admitted that it was “frustrating” that biotechnology would take so long, but he said that other customers’ products would be launched soon.this CronosThe Canada-based company said that by the end of this year, it will sell intoxicating pineapple-flavored candies that contain CBG, the molecular component of hemp flower; Ginkgo has helped it show how to make this compound in yeast. A derivative of Ginkgo, called Motif FoodWorks, Say It is expected that synthetic meat flavors will also be introduced this year.


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