Ginko Bioworks is a biology lab that is focused on “hacking biology”. Christina Agapakis, their creative director, says that Ginko is literally working on speeding up evolution. On a very basic level, the biologists working at Ginko work on splicing and re-mixing genes to create new synthetic organisms. They first created some buzz within the biotechnology world when they received funding from DARPA to develop organisms that grow probiotics.
Ginko Bioworks was the brainchild of Tom Knight and four MIT PhD graduates. Their goal was to create a lab space where they could explore the intersection of biology and (chemical) engineering and find a way to use their findings to better the technology industry.
On a day-to-day basis, the lab runs as a “rapid prototyping” factory. They essentially mix and splice and see what the results are, and what they can be useful for. More often than not, their research is prompted by a problem that one of their clients has. Many companies come to Ginko because they need a particular ingredient for their own product(s). It’s Ginko’s job to see if they can create the ingredient in question. When they aren’t working on client-based problems, Ginko is doing the equivalent of freelance work in the field of biology in chemical space. They synthesize enzymes, put them in yeast and see what the new variations produce.
These days, Ginko Bioworks is working on developing organisms that emanate specific smells. They’ve been commissioned by a French fragrance company to create the scent of a very specific, rare rose that can only be grown in certain regions. Ginko’s goal is to create both synthetic scents and flavors that will replace organic compounds that are typically too rare or expensive to be used sustainably.
Ginko has its hands in a lot of biotechnology is also working on the technology for Carbon Capture. They received a grant from Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy to convert short chain carbon into other organisms. Ajinomoto, a Japanese food company has also enlisted Ginko’s help to make their waste stream more efficient and sustainable.
To learn more about Ginko Bioworks, see this article.