Google jumped into synthetic biology with two mid-stage investments in synthetic food products and CRISPR-based therapeutics since 2014.
In a milestone year, global funding to private synthetic biology startups surpassed $1B in 2016. While biological engineering is not a new science, the surging reliability of genetic editing techniques and their increasingly creative applications have led to synthetic biology startups attacking everything from consumer goods to industrial chemicals.
And corporate investors such as agriculture giants Syngenta and Mosanto and pharmaceutical manufacturers such as Novartis and AstraZeneca have taken notice. More corporates invested in synthetic biology startups in 2015 alone than from 2012-2014 combined. While the industry is now experiencing a democratization of genetic editing techniques due to lower costs and increased availability, corporate resources will likely be key to scaling beyond the lab.
Below we used CB Insights data to visualize global corporate equity investment in private synthetic biology startups from 2012-2017 YTD (2/20/17).
- The past two years have seen a boon of corporate activity in synthetic biology as large and small players alike rush into the sector. From 2012-2014, there were 16 deals involving corporates into private synthetic biology companies. In 2015 alone there were 16 deals and 10 the following year.
- The most active corporate investors in private synthetic biology startups operate across pharmaceuticals and agriculture, demonstrating the breadth of potential synthetic biology applications. Since 2012, the most active corporates include Novartis, Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Syngenta, and Monsanto. Many of these corporates often invest through a corporate VC arm such as Novartis Venture Funds or Monsanto Growth Ventures.
- The large majority of corporates active in synthetic biology are pharmaceutical companies such as Novartis, Alexion Pharmaceuticals, AstraZeneca, and Merck. Pharmaceutical giants also participated in some of the larger rounds to synthetic biology private companies. For example, the $450M Series E of Moderna Therapeutics from investors including Alexion Pharmaceuticals & AstraZeneca, the $70M Series B of Intellia Therapeutics from investors including Novartis Venture Funds, and $64M Series B of CRISPR Therapeutics from investors such as Celgene.
- Agriculture giants have also increased their activity in the space recently. Monsanto, Syngenta, and Maschhoff Family Foods have all made investments in the past 3 years to companies such as Pivot Bio, Agrivida, and Agrimetis.
- Since 2014, Google has made 2 investments in synthetic biology startups, Impossible Foods and . Editas Medicine went public in February 2016 valued at $571M while still in the discovery phase of multiple CRISPR-based pharmaceuticals. Impossible Foods develops meat products from plant material and uses ditas Medicineheme, which makes the meat red, produced from genetically engineered yeast.
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