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Ginkgo Bioworks Pulls In $275M as Synthetic Biology Funding Soars

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French fragrance and flavor company Robertet and Minnesota-based Cargill, a maker of food and agricultural products, among other things.

The new funding is being used, in part, to invest in robotics and other equipment, and to expand Ginkgo’s physical footprint. This week, the company announced the opening of its third lab at its headquarters, bringing its total square footage to 70,000, Kelly says. Ginkgo could expand to about 125,000 square feet of space in the next few years, he adds.

Ginkgo says the additional space will help it move into new kinds of products, including textiles. Kelly wouldn’t speculate on what other areas the company might explore, but “there’s a lot of directions you could take the technology,” he says.

“We really see designed microbes as this tremendously flexible platform,” he says. “It’s getting a lot cheaper to do the work, year over year.”

The company is also hiring, with plans to grow its team from 160 people to around 210, Kelly says.

But the other reason Ginkgo decided to raise so much capital is to strengthen its pitch to customers and partners, most of whom are large corporations, he says.

“They want to know that Ginkgo’s going to be around when they’re engaging us around a multi-year contract,” Kelly says. “A bunch of the [Series D] money is not going to run out of the bank. It’s there to say, ‘Look, you can trust to make a long-term bet with us.’”

Of course, raising so much venture capital can also make it more difficult for a company to deliver a strong return for investors. When asked about exit plans, Kelly says he envisions Ginkgo going public at some point, but he doesn’t have a specific IPO timeline in mind. (Who knows whether the company will follow through on those plans—plenty of companies say they plan to go public, and most never do.)

“An acquisition doesn’t make a lot of sense for us because it would only value the platform in one” industry, whereas Ginkgo’s leaders think the company’s technology could be useful for multiple sectors, Kelly says. “Because of that, we think it makes sense for the company to stand alone. An IPO is a much likelier outcome than an acquisition.”

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