Escherichia coli bacteria
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Ginkgo Bioworks today announced a new partnership with Boehringer Ingelheim to use Ginkgo’s metagenomic sequence database to find candidates to address undruggable targets. The two companies will leverage Ginkgo’s natural product discovery capabilities to “accelerate the discovery and development of novel therapeutic molecules to address diseases with high unmet patient needs that are out of reach of conventional drug discovery.”

Ginkgo will receive upfront research fees and is eligible to receive success-based research and development, regulatory, and commercial milestone payments for a specified number of projects for a possible total of $406 million. Ginkgo is also entitled to potential further downstream value in the form of royalties on sales.

More than half of all targets predicted to be involved in human disease are still considered “undruggable,” because they cannot be addressed with traditional approaches.

Ginkgo and Boehringer Ingelheim will collaborate to mine Ginkgo’s metagenomic sequence database, which provides access to a structurally novel bioactive molecules, potentially enabling the rapid identification of lead molecules as starting points for the potential discovery of novel treatments.

Metagenomics, according to the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGR), is “The study of the structure and function of entire nucleotide sequences isolated and analyzed from all the organisms (typically microbes) in a bulk sample.”

“Ginkgo is well-positioned to help partners like Boehringer Ingelheim complement their drug discovery efforts particularly when it comes to natural product discovery,” said Jason Kelly, CEO and co-founder at Ginkgo Bioworks. “We are thrilled to work with Boehringer Ingelheim leveraging our Foundry and Codebase to unlock new possibilities in biopharma innovation.”

Ginkgo has built one of the broadest and deepest metagenomics databases worldwide, aided by its recent acquisition of Zymergen, a synthetic biology company that had a splashy start—$1B in VC funding and a $500M IPO, but then saw a dramatic plunge in share price in 2021. It was acquired by Ginkgo for just $300M.

But in 2018 Zymergen had acquired metagenomics company Radiant Genomics. “With more than two terabases of physical and digital DNA data, Radiant’s libraries comprise one of the largest fully-assembled and instantly-accessible catalogues of genetic diversity in the world,” the companies said at the time.  Apparently, Ginkgo saw value in that.

Today, Ginkgo says the database comprises over three terabases of sequence data and over two billion proprietary protein sequences from a variety of microbes, creating a unique foundation for the discovery of novel therapeutic molecules.

Ginkgo Bioworks has a horizontal platform for cell programming, providing flexible, end-to-end services across diverse markets, from food and agriculture to pharmaceuticals to industrial and specialty chemicals. Ginkgo’s biosecurity and public health unit, Concentric by Ginkgo, focuses on infrastructure for biosecurity for  governments, communities, and public health leaders to prevent, detect and respond to a wide variety of biological threats.

In April of this year Ginkgo acquired gene therapy vector assets from StrideBio. Around the same time, they announced the launch of Ginkgo Cell Therapy Services.

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