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Ginkgo Bioworks buys two small biotech companies

The Boston firm has been expanding its work in cell and gene therapy.

Ginkgo Bioworks was featured on the facade of the New York Stock Exchange building when the Boston company went public last year.Courtney Crow/NYSE

Ginkgo Bioworks, the Boston-based synthetic biology company, said Tuesday that it has acquired two biotech companies, Altar and Circularis.

Terms of the deals were not disclosed. Atlas has fewer than 20 employees and Circularis has fewer than 10. The acquisitions come as Ginkgo has expanded its work in cell and gene therapy, including by working with Cambridge-based Biogen and Moderna.

Altar, based outside of Paris, gives Ginkgo access to automated lab instruments that are expected to improve Ginkgo’s strain engineering capabilities. Altar’s technique, known as adaptive laboratory evolution, will help Ginkgo adapt certain microorganisms to conditions required by potential industrial customers, such as high temperatures.


Ginkgo said the integration could benefit customers in several industries, including food and beverage, biofuels, biomaterials, and cosmetics. According to the companies, Altar and Ginkgo have “successfully collaborated” in the past.

Circularis, based in Oakland, Calif., developed proprietary circular RNA technology, which Ginkgo plans to integrate into its cell programming platform. Scientists believe circular RNA could work better than RNA strands as a potential therapy because it lasts longer in cells.

Ginkgo, which as of June had 830 employees, performs cell engineering for other companies, with the goal of having other firms bring products to market with its know-how. The company said in a press release about the acquisitions that it is “constantly searching for technologies and capabilities that will make biology easier to engineer.”

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