Business

Ginkgo, a startup working on self-fertilizing crops, raises another $275m

An engineer was at work in one of Ginkgo’s laboratories earlier this year.
PAT GREENHOUSE/GLOBE STAFF/FILE 2017
An engineer was at work in one of Ginkgo’s laboratories earlier this year.

Ginkgo Bioworks, a genetic engineering company, said Wednesday that it has raised another $275 million and opened a third laboratory in Boston’s Seaport District.

The latest infusion of venture capital brings the company’s total funding to $429 million as Ginkgo expands its business of custom-designing living cells. The cells are used to produce crops, fragrances, cosmetics, and medicines.

Among those who have invested in the startup is Bill Gates, through his asset-management firm, Cascade Investment.

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On Thursday, Gingko is set to host a party to mark the opening of its third “foundry,” or lab, Bioworks3, which is located in an 18,000-square-foot production facility in the Seaport District. All told, Ginkgo has 70,000 square feet of laboratory space filled with 50 robots that design DNA. Each of the devices costs $100,000 to $500,000.

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Starting with brewer’s yeast, Ginkgo has developed a process to alter genes from vanilla, rose oil, mint, and other flowers or plants to produce flavors and scents used in agriculture and cosmetics.

Ginkgo also recently announced a partnership with Synlogic, a Cambridge pharmaceutical company, aimed at discovering medicines to treat neurological and liver disorders, marking Ginkgo’s first foray into drug making.

“We design more DNA than any company in the world,” said Jason Kelly, chief executive of Ginkgo, which was founded in 2008.

Some of the work is intended to help the environment, Kelly said. For example, Ginkgo is designing crops that can fertilize themselves instead of relying on synthetic nitrogen fertilizer, which is typically made in massive, energy-guzzling factories.

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Kelly said he expects the company to open a fourth lab next year. Ginkgo has been expanding its staff, as well. It now has 160 employees and is expected to add another 50 over the next year, he said.

Jonathan Saltzman can be reached at jsaltzman@globe.com.