Synthetic Biology Startup Zymergen Inc. Raises $300 million

Bloomberg writer Sarah McBride reported today that, “Synthetic biology startup Zymergen Inc. has raised $300 million in a new funding round—a signal of investors’ confidence that biological science can be harnessed in novel ways to manufacture products.

“The funding round was led by Baillie Gifford & Co., the U.K.-based funds giant, with participation from Baron Capital Inc. and a sovereign wealth fund that declined to be identified, said Josh Hoffman, Zymergen’s chief executive officer and co-founder. Other investors included existing backers DCVC, True Ventures and SoftBank Group Corp.’s Vision Fund.

“The fresh cash influx will finance Zymergen’s methods for making materials from polymers to pesticides, and comes almost two years after the Vision Fund led a $400 million round in the company. That round valued the startup at $1.05 billion valuation, according to shares-trading site SharesPost. Hoffman declined to provide the current valuation.”

The Bloomberg article added that, “Zymergen’s technology works by manipulating the genetics of microbes. The startup’s scientists run the microbes through hundreds of thousands or even millions of tests, and use machine learning to see which result yields the most promising outcome. Once the scientists design the ideal microbe, they get the microbes to produce molecules via fermentation. Those molecules become part of the animal feed, industrial coating, or whatever the final material the company is developing. 

“‘It’s a viable strategy,’ said Frances Arnold, a Nobel Prize-winning professor of chemical engineering, bioengineering and biochemistry at the California Institute of Technology. ‘The whole premise of the field is you can make molecules the way nature makes them, cleanly, sustainably, often from renewable resources.'”

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