3d illustration of a part of an RNA chain to illustrate new RNA therapeutics
Credit: Christoph Burgstedt /Getty Images

Ginkgo Bioworks has acquired California-based circular RNA company Circularis Biotechnologies to help improve its gene and cell therapy capacities.

The synthetic biology giant plans to integrate Circularis’ technology into its own platform following the acquisition, the value of which was not disclosed, and will take advantage of the longer life and increased stability of circular RNA to improve future gene and cell therapies.

Circularis was set up in 2014 by LeAnn Lindsay and Paul Feldstein at University of California Davis. It is one of several circular RNA companies set up in recent years including Orna Therapeutics, Laronde, and others.

In addition to being longer lived and more stable than non-circular RNA, circular RNA has multiple potential uses. From Ginkgo’s perspective, its ability to tailor gene therapies, for example by reducing the promoter size to fit in an AAV vector better, or adding enhancer elements to regulate the strength of its effect, is a key attraction.

In addition, technology such as that developed by Circularis can also help enhance synthetic biology projects by uncovering and enhancing promoters in a range of bacterial and yeast species.

Ginkgo, which went public through a SPAC merger last year, started out with a focus on synthetic biology and developing engineered micro-organisms with multiple uses. However, it has been moving further into the advanced therapeutics field in recent years.

It has a partnership with Biogen to develop better adeno-associated virus (AAV) manufacturing, and a program with Selecta Biosciences to develop next generation AAV vectors with improved targeting and immunogenicity for gene and cell therapies. In the RNA space it also has collaborations with Moderna and Aldevron and wants to improve circular RNA efficacy and manufacturing yields.

Circularis has a focus on finding and applying specific promoter and enhancer elements. The promoter libraries can help create more customizable gene therapies that can be used in multiple organisms. The RNA platform will also help find better and more relevant promoters for use in cell therapies, for example, those that modulate gene expression in the tumor microenvironment to help treat cancer.

“Circularis has built an exceptional platform to screen gene expression regulatory elements, a need across the cell and gene therapy space,” said Narendra Maheshri, Head of Mammalian Foundry at Ginkgo Bioworks.

“Circularis was founded because we saw a need for better tools to control gene regulation in a range of species. Our team is incredibly proud of what we’ve built, and the opportunity to scale it on the Ginkgo platform means we’re a major step closer to realizing this technology’s potential,” said Mat Falkowski, CEO at Circularis.

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