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Dollars and scents: Ginkgo Bioworks gets $45m

Biology startup custom designs bacteria to enhance smells, tastes

Build engineer Brian Carvalho, 24, of Cambridge, used a liquid handling robot in March at Ginkgo Bioworks in South Boston.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Ginkgo Bioworks is announcing major funding this week, led by Connecticut hedge fund Viking Global. The South Boston startup has raised $45 million, less than four months after a $9 million funding round.

Ginkgo is an MIT spinoff that designs custom-crafted bacteria that can crank out flavors, fragrances, sweeteners, and other ingredients of interest to manufacturers.

The company, founded in 2008, was the first biotech business to participate in the well-regarded Silicon Valley-based Y Combinator accelerator program for startups last year.

Ginkgo’s founders include Tom Knight, a former senior researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who is considered one of the pioneers of synthetic biology; and MIT alums Jason Kelly, Reshma Shetty, Barry Canton, and Austin Che.


Ginkgo’s new cash will be used for hiring and enhancing its highly automated production facility, as well as tackling new categories, including pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.

Ginkgo says it has signed more than 20 “organism design” contracts with customers.

Those projects include work on organic pesticides with an agriculture company; developing sweeteners for a major beverage company; and creating rose oils for Robertet, a French fragrance company.

Chief executive Jason Kelly expects the first Ginkgo-crafted organisms “to be sold by our partners by the end of the year, or first quarter of 2016.”

Scott Kirsner can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @ScottKirsner and on