Two of the state’s major COVID-19 testing players are combining their efforts.
Ginkgo Bioworks said Wednesday that it acquired Project Beacon, a joint venture by the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and venture capital firms F-Prime Capital and GV, which began in the early days of the pandemic to increase testing capacity in Massachusetts. Ginkgo will combine Project Beacon with its own testing business, called Concentric.
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Muz Mansuri, executive director of Project Beacon and venture partner at F-Prime, said in a statement that the mission of the group has been to “support Massachusetts residents by providing low-cost, convenient testing.” Merging with Ginkgo will help the company “serve more people around the state and nation.”
“We have no profit motive, and we didn’t seek capital return in this transaction,” Mansuri said.
Ginkgo will acquire a digital platform Project Beacon built to deliver test results, as well as state contracts to operate four testing tests in Massachusetts and other inventory and equipment, the company said. Project Beacon employees will transition to Ginkgo’s testing business.
Project Beacon had inked several contracts with the state, including one to run the pooled testing program in K-12 schools alongside Ginkgo and CIC Health, another testing provider.
The state also paid Project Beacon $250,000 in February 2021 to create software that lists all COVID-19 vaccination sites in Massachusetts. It was originally built for people working in a state-run call center to find available appointments, but the state later asked Project Beacon to make it available to the general public. It is now known as the Vaxfinder.
Project Beacon’s website states that if the organization generated any revenue, it would be “used to support public needs or, at the end of the project, donated to charity.”
Now, Project Beacon is owned by Ginkgo, a publicly traded company that says it wants to create a “next-generation biosecurity and public health platform with the aim of providing pathogen biomonitoring at scale.” According to Ginkgo, its business Concentric completed over 3 million COVID tests in the second half of 2021, and Project Beacon has facilitated more than 1.5 million since its inception.