Synthetic biology startups are engineering cells to produce everything from painkillers to jet fuel. |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.
This market map is not meant to be exhaustive of companies in the space. Graphic includes private, active companies only. Click to enlarge.
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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Startups applying synthetic biology to everything from food production to cancer therapy. Sign up for a free trial and look for Synthetic Biology in the Collections tab.Track synthetic biology startups
|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|
|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|
|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|
|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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