Ginkgo Bioworks, Inc.’s (“Ginkgo”) founders have been working together for nearly twenty years since they first met at MIT. They launched Ginkgo in 2008 with the consistent goal of developing a platform that makes cell programming easier for their customers and partners.
Ginkgo’s platform leverages advanced robotic automation, proprietary software, and data analytics to continuously improve the technology (“Foundry”) as well as the knowledge and re-usable biological assets (“Codebase”) required to engineer biology. Ginkgo has built a scalable engineering and data platform by integrating a spectrum of innovative life sciences tools into their Foundry, and has amassed a large, flexible, and diverse biological Codebase to facilitate innovation across a wide breadth of applications.
Ginkgo and Soaring Eagle Acquisition Corp. (“Soaring Eagle”), a publicly traded special purpose acquisition company, have agreed to a business combination that will result in Ginkgo becoming a publicly-listed company. Institutional investors have committed $775 million in an oversubscribed PIPE, with anchor investments from Baillie Gifford, Putnam Investments, and funds and accounts managed by Counterpoint Global (Morgan Stanley Investment Management). New investors including accounts advised by ARK Investment Management LLC, ArrowMark Partners, Bain Capital Public Equity, Berkshire Partners, and Franklin Advisers also joined. Existing investors including Cascade Investment, Casdin Capital, General Atlantic, Senator Investment Group, funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates, Inc., and Viking Global Investors are also participating.
Baillie Gifford, in particular, is set for a windfall profit from its holding in Ginkgo. The Scottish asset manager first invested in Ginkgo in 2016 and the company was a 1.4% holding in the Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust, at the end of March, according to its results published last week.
Ginko’s ticker is be “DNA,” and it’s new website is website will be SyntheticBiology.com.
There is a growing awareness of the capabilities and potential of engineered biology, ranging from mRNA vaccines to animal-free protein to renewable plastics. Much like computer programming impacted every information-based industry (including media, telecom, advertising, and finance), cell programming has the potential to impact every physical goods industry (including therapeutics, food, agriculture, chemicals, and electronics). Ginkgo programs living cells for customers in any industry, so they can realize the potential of biology to grow more sustainable and innovative products.
“The magic of biology is that cells run on digital code similar to a computer, except that instead of 0s and 1s it’s As, Ts, Cs, and Gs,” said Jason Kelly, co-founder and CEO of Ginkgo Bioworks, Inc. “Ginkgo’s platform makes it easier to program this code, and we are making this platform available to organizations working to solve our most pressing problems. From mRNA vaccines reaching people’s arms to combating climate change, the opportunity to work with programmed cells has never been more apparent. We are thrilled to partner with Arie as well as the team at Soaring Eagle to bring this vision to life.”
The transaction implies a pre-money equity valuation for Ginkgo of $15.0 billion, and is expected to provide up to $2.5 billion of gross cash proceeds. Gross proceeds include Soaring Eagle’s $1.725 billion of cash in trust (subject to any redemptions by Soaring Eagle’s public shareholders) and $775 million in proceeds from a PIPE transaction priced at $10.00 per share of Class A common stock of Soaring Eagle to be funded immediately prior to the closing of the transaction. Eagle Equity Partners is co-sponsoring the transaction with Bellco Capital, led by Dr. Arie Belldegrun. Dr. Belldegrun is a leader in the field of cell and gene therapy and founder of Kite Pharma and Allogene Therapeutics. Both co-sponsors are also investing in the PIPE. The PIPE is being led by Baillie Gifford, Putnam Investments, and funds and accounts managed by Counterpoint Global (Morgan Stanley Investment Management) and with additional participation from new and existing investors including accounts advised by ARK Investment Management LLC, ArrowMark Partners, Bain Capital Public Equity, Berkshire Partners, Cascade Investment, Casdin Capital, Franklin Advisers, funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates, Inc., and Viking Global Investors.
“Eagle Equity Partners continues to focus on companies that are in a category of one,” said Harry E. Sloan, CEO of Soaring Eagle. “Ginkgo is not only a leader in this field, but its founders launched the modern practice of synthetic biology. There has never been a more critical time to employ Ginkgo’s technological achievements and efficiencies toward solving so many real-world problems—environment, food, and health to name a few. We’ve been so impressed with Jason and his co-founders’ sense of purpose and we believe that this team will be the ambassadors of these advances for decades to come.”
“We are at the beginning of a new era in scientific innovation, where industries which once worked in silos now come together to address challenging issues and improve human health,” said Arie Belldegrun, M.D., FACS, co-founder of Bellco Capital. “At Bellco and across our portfolio of biotechnology companies and investments, we have seen first-hand how the ability to program cells has started to revolutionize how we treat disease with the birth of cell and gene therapies. I am excited to join the Ginkgo family as a board member, with the hope of expanding use of Ginkgo’s state-of-the-art technology to assist biopharma companies and expedite drug development.”
Ginkgo serves enterprise customers spanning multiple end markets, enabling them to conduct cell programming R&D at scale on Ginkgo’s platform. Ginkgo earns usage-based revenues for this work as well as value share in the form of royalties from products that go to market or equity in the partner company. Today, industry sources estimate companies spend approximately $40 billion per year on biotech R&D work, work that could be supported by Ginkgo’s platform. Additionally, a recent McKinsey Global Institute report estimated that the overall market for bioengineered products from which Ginkgo could receive a value share is estimated to reach $2 to $4 trillion in the next 10 to 20 years. The capital raised in this transaction will dramatically increase the scale of Ginkgo’s platform and empower an ecosystem for cell programmers, accelerating the number of new programs able to launch on Ginkgo’s platform every year. These programs have the potential for positive ESG impact as Ginkgo’s customers are using cell programming to address some of the biggest challenges the world is facing today, from climate change to food security to pandemic response.
Ginkgo will continue to be led by co-founder and CEO Jason Kelly and co-founder and President/COO Reshma Shetty and will retain the rest of the Ginkgo founding team, including Chief Technology Officer Barry Canton, Head of Strategy Austin Che, and the “godfather of synthetic biology”, DNA Hacker Tom Knight.
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