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Ginkgo Bioworks aims to keep growing with new building in the Seaport

The company, which launched in 2008 as a five-person startup, now has about 500 employees.

Ginkgo Bioworks hopes to expand into a life science campus being proposed for Fid Kennedy Avenue in the Seaport District.
Ginkgo Bioworks hopes to expand into a life science campus being proposed for Fid Kennedy Avenue in the Seaport District.SGA/DREAM Collaborative

One of the first life sciences companies to put down roots in the Seaport District may get a new building all to itself.

Ginkgo Bioworks has agreed to lease 150,000 square feet in a lab building proposed by Marcus Partners, along Fid Kennedy Avenue in the Raymond L. Flynn Marine Industrial Park. Work on the eight-story building — which needs city approval — would start next year, and open in 2024.

It’s a big step for the cell-production company, which launched in 2008 as a five-person startup out of MIT and today employs about 500 people, making cells for a growing array of industries and uses. During that time, Ginkgo Bioworks has been based in the industrial park, first in an old warehouse and then in ever-growing offices in the massive Innovation and Design Building, where it occupies about 200,000 square feet of research and cell-manufacturing facilities.

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Today, life sciences companies are flocking to the outer Seaport, but when Ginkgo Bioworks arrived, it was still an old industrial no-man’s land.

“We like to think we were a little ahead of the game there,” said cofounder Barry Canton. “Most MIT spinouts would get space in Cambridge; we were excited to get over to Boston, and we thought this was a fun part of the city.”

The space it’s moving into reflects the industrial park’s evolution. The building will be located on the site of what is an old bakery and office building for Au Bon Pain. The property was acquired last year by development firm Marcus Partners for $25 million. Marcus filed detailed plans with the Boston Planning & Development Agency Friday to tear down the bakery and replace it with a 219,000-square-foot lab building, and repurpose a steel manufacturing facility next door as an “amenity building” for a campus that would be anchored by Ginkgo.

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“Ginkgo Bioworks is a leader in the field of biology and we are pleased to be working with them to expand their existing footprint in the Raymond L. Flynn Marine Park,” said Marcus Partners Principal Levi Reilly. “This initial lease validates our belief in the continued demand for state-of-the-art life science space alongside peer companies in the heart of a thriving cluster.”

All over the Seaport, and particularly in the industrial park on the neighborhood’s eastern edge, lab-oriented projects are being planned or built. Vertex Pharmaceuticals, another in the first wave of life sciences companies to move to the Seaport, is filling much of a project on Tide Street, while numerous other drug makers are moving into smaller spaces.

Ginkgo Bioworks, which has grown through robust venture capital funding ― and in the last year made a major expansion into COVID-19 testing ― has also opened facilities in the Alewife section of Cambridge. But its home, Canton said, is in the Seaport, where the company will keep its space in the IDB and grow into the new building on Fid Kennedy. Employees like being able to look out the window at a working dry dock, he said, or to go downstairs and mingle with furniture designers and sneaker marketers who also call the neighborhood home.

“Rather than just being glass buildings full of biotechs, here we have the maritime industry, the design industry, companies like Reebok,” Canton said. “I love the potpourri of this place.”

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Tim Logan can be reached at timothy.logan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @bytimlogan.