Synthetic biology startups are engineering cells to produce everything from painkillers to jet fuel.

Over the past five years, funding to synthetic biology startups has more than tripled, surpassing the $1B mark for the first time in 2016. Deal flow has also grown significantly, up over 150% since 2012.

We define synthetic biology as the application of engineering principles to biology, often via the manipulation of DNA. The technology is used to develop new biological systems, such as microbes that produce biofuel or milk proteins, or fundamentally re-design old systems, such as immune cells geared toward attacking a specific type of cancer.

Below we map 67 private synthetic biology startups according to their main area of focus. Startups are working to build next-gen pharmaceuticals, fuels, and food products, among many other applications of this transformative technology.

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This market map is not meant to be exhaustive of companies in the space. Graphic includes private, active companies only. Click to enlarge.

MarketMap glowing plants fixed

Healthcare: This category includes companies applying synthetic biology techniques to the discovery of new pharmaceuticals, medical devices, or diagnostics. For example, Poseida Therapeutics uses gene editing techniques to develop treatments for multiple myeloma and prostate cancer, among other conditions. And Antheia is engineering yeast to turn glucose into opiods.

Industrial Chemicals: These companies are developing novel methods for the production of chemicals used in fragrances, flavors, pharmaceuticals, and other industrial applications. Lygos has engineered yeast to produce the chemical malonic acid from sugar and carbon dioxide. And Green Biologics engineers bacteria to produce chemicals such as butanol for paints, adhesives, cleaners, and flavors.

Biofuels: Companies in this category are developing new renewable energy sources by engineering normally benign microbes into fuel-producing entities. For example, LanzaTech has enabled microbes to turn waste gases such as carbon dioxide or methane into fuels and chemicals. The company, funded in part by Khosla Ventures and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, has already partnered with Virgin Atlantic for the production of low carbon jet fuel.

DNA & RNA Synthesis: Companies whose core function is the synthesis of synthetic DNA or RNA, often as a service to other businesses. Twist Biosciences synthesizes DNA based on sequences chosen by the customer. The company works with a silicon-based platform in order to increase production and decrease the cost of scalable gene synthesis.

Software: These companies are building software products that allow scientists to more efficiently design and build custom DNA sequences. Desktop Genetics is building an AI-powered platform for CRISPR gene editing.

Organism engineering & automation platforms: Companies in this category are building software and hardware solutions enabling the rapid scaling of synthetic DNA production. Ginkgo Bioworks has built a system of automating organism design, allowing scientists to prototype thousands of genetic designs in a fraction of the time it once took. MetaMixis has designed a platform that discovers novel pathways for the production of various chemicals. This will enable scientists to more quickly program microbes to produce chemicals such as those used in flavors or fragrances.

Agriculture: These startups are developing synthetic solutions to aid both plants and animals. Agrivida engineers enzymes to improve the digestibility and utilization of animal nutrition products. And Plant Sensory Systems engineers beets to improve crop yield, pest resistance, and sugar production.

Consumer Products: This category includes startups developing consumer goods such as leather or lighting structures. Modern Meadow, for example, has designed bacteria capable of producing collagen which is then joined together in bundles to produce a leather hide.

Food & Drink: These startups are inventing synthetic food production and preservation processes. Ava Winery is developing synthetic wine without grapes by reproducing the chemical makeup of popular wines. For ingredients, the team also engineers yeast and corn to produce certain compounds and amino acids identical to those found in wine. Combined, these elements can replicate the taste, flavor, and odor profiles of potentially any wine.


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Synthetic Biology Company List
Company Category Select Investors
Moderna Therapeutics Therapeutics AstraZeneca, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority
Synlogic Therapeutics Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, New Enterprise Associates, OrbiMed Advisors
Vedanta Biosciences Therapeutics Invesco, Johnson & Johnson, PureTech
Caribou Biosciences Therapeutics Maverick Ventures, Mission Bay Capital, Novartis
Cell Design Labs Therapeutics Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Osage University Partners
Poseida Therapeutics Therapeutics Malin Corporation
Synthorx Therapeutics Avalon Ventures, Correlation Ventures, RA Capital Management
Triton Algae Innovations Therapeutics Heliae
EpiBiome Therapeutics Illumina Accelerator, Matrix Capital Management, Silicon Valley Bank
AzarGen Biotechnologies Therapeutics Industrial Development Corporation, South African Government
Codagenix Therapeutics Long Island Emerging Technologies Fund, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Agriculture
Eligo Bioscience Therapeutics Seventure Partners
Antheia Therapeutics Undisclosed Investors
Tepha Therapeutics GE Capital, Integra Ventures, Novartis Venture Funds
Teewinot Life Sciences Therapeutics Tuatara Capital
Synthace Software Innovate UK, Sofinnova Partners, SOSventures
Desktop Genetics Software Boundary Capital, Illumina, IQ Capital Partners
TeselaGen Biotechnology Software Small Business Innovation Research Awards
Zymergen Organism Design & Automation Data Collective, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Iconiq Capital
GEEN Biotechnology Organism Design & Automation String Ventures
Ginkgo BioWorks Organism Design & Automation Baillie Gifford & Co., Data Collective, Y Combinator
Synthetic Genomics Organism Design & Automation DFJ Frontier, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company
enEvolv Organism Design & Automation Cultivian Sandbox
Muse Biotechnology Organism Design & Automation Malaysian Life Sciences Capital Fund, NanoDimension
MetaMixis Organism Design & Automation 500 Accelerator, Illumina Accelerator
Synbiota Organism Design & Automation Real Ventures, SOSventures
Green Biologics Industrial Chemicals Capricorn Venture Partners, Innovate UK, Sofinnova Partners
Verdezyne Industrial Chemicals BP Alternative Energy Ventures, Life Science Angels, OVP Venture Partners
Myriant Technologies Industrial Chemicals PTT Public Chemical Company, U.S. Department of Agriculture
Greenlight Biosciences Industrial Chemicals Burrill & Company, Khosla Ventures, Kodiak Venture Partners
Lygos Industrial Chemicals First Round Capital, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Energy, Y Combinator
Arzeda Industrial Chemicals National Science Foundation, OVP Venture Partners, WRF Capital
Modular Genetics Industrial Chemicals Boston University Technology Development
Biosyntia Industrial Chemicals Novo Ventures
Industrial Microbes Industrial Chemicals Y Combinator
CinderBio Industrial Chemicals National Science Foundation
Zymochem Industrial Chemicals Breakout Labs, Indie.Bio
Impossible Foods Food & Drink Bill Gates, Google Ventures, Horizons Ventures, Khosla Ventures
Calysta Food & Drink Cargill Ventures, Old Westbury Real Return Fund, Pangaea Ventures
Apeel Sciences Food & Drink Andreessen Horowitz, DBL Partners, Powerplant Ventures, Upfront Ventures
Glycos Biotechnologies Food & Drink Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Mercury Fund
Ava Winery Food & Drink Horizons Ventures
GEA Enzymes Food & Drink Indie Bio
Geltor Food & Drink Indie.Bio, New Crop Capital
Perfect Day Food & Drink Horizons Ventures, Indie.Bio, SOSventures
Clara Foods Food & Drink Indie.Bio, SOSventures
Milis Bio Food & Drink Indie.Bio, Startupbootcamp FoodTech
MiraculeX Food & Drink Indie.Bio
Ageria Food & Drink Indie.Bio
Aranex Biotech Food & Drink Indie.Bio
Twist Bioscience DNA & RNA Synthesis ARCH Venture Partners, DARPA, Illumina Ventures, WuXi Venture Fund
Synthego DNA & RNA Synthesis 8VC, AME Cloud Ventures, Founders Fund
Integrated DNA Technologies DNA & RNA Synthesis Golub Capital, Summit Partners
Synpromics DNA & RNA Synthesis Calculus Capital
Apta Biosciences DNA & RNA Synthesis Ranworth Capital, SyndicateRoom
Bolt Threads Consumer Products Formation 8, Foundation Capital, Founders Fund, National Science Foundation
Modern Meadow Consumer Products Artis Ventures, Breakout Ventures, Collaborative Fund, Iconiq Capital
Glowee Consumer Products WiSEED
TAXA Biotechnologies Consumer Products Y Combinator
Sapphire Energy Biofuels ARCH Venture Partners, Monsanto, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Energy
LanzaTech Biofuels Khosla Ventures, Siemens Venture Capital, Softbank China Venture Capital
Joule Unlimited Biofuels Flagship Pioneering, Rusnano
Matrix Genetics Biofuels Avista
Agrivida Agriculture ARCH Venture Partners, GSV Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, U.S. Department of Agriculture
AgriMetis Agriculture Acidophil, Anterra Capital, RA Capital Management, Syngenta Ventures
Pivot Bio Agriculture Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Data Collective, Monsanto Growth Ventures
Plant Sensory Systems Agriculture ARPA-E, National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Energy

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