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Biogen taps Ginkgo Bioworks to work on gene therapy manufacturing program

The companies’ goal is to make the production process more efficient.

Biogen's headquarters in Cambridge.Scott Eisen/Bloomberg

Two of the largest biotechs in Massachusetts, Biogen and Ginkgo Bioworks, are teaming up with a goal of making gene therapies easier to produce, which could accelerate the development of Biogen’s drugs.

The companies said they will work on manufacturing a type of vector, commonly used to develop gene therapies, that is time-consuming and costly to make. Cambridge-based Biogen is tapping Ginkgo to use the Boston company’s automated cell programming platform for lab work. The hope is to figure out how to make the process of producing vectors more efficient, which could potentially increase the accessibility of gene therapies to patients.


Alphonse Galdes, head of pharmaceutical operations and technology at Biogen, said Ginkgo shares its mission of “ensuring approved therapies are not delayed by manufacturing constraints and are available to patients worldwide.” The collaboration could help Biogen’s programs that are intended produce treatments that slow, halt, or cure neurological and neurodegenerative diseases.

News of the collaboration comes less than two weeks after Ginkgo announced it plans to go public through a $17.5 billion merger with a SPAC, or special purpose acquisition company. Jason Kelly, chief executive of the biotech, said at the time that the company planned to expand its partnerships with drug firms.

As part of the deal, Ginkgo will receive $5 million upfront and be eligible for an additional $115 million in milestone payments, if the program is successful.

Anissa Gardizy can be reached at anissa.gardizy@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @anissagardizy8 and on Instagram @anissagardizy.journalism.