USA – Synthetic biology company Ginkgo Bioworks has acquired two biotech firms: Altar, a French firm with a proprietary adaptive evolution platform, and Circularis, a company with a proprietary circular RNA and promoter screening platform.

The news comes just months after Ginkgo’s largest acquisition to date—when the company acquired Zymergen for US$300M this past summer.

The acquisition of California-based circular RNA company Circularis Biotechnologies will help Ginkgo improve its gene and cell therapy capacities.

When RNA is circularized, it lives much longer in cells, increasing its robustness as a potential therapeutic modality.

Circular RNA has multiple potential applications in addition to being longer-lived and more stable than non-circular RNA.

Ginkgo’s ability to tailor gene therapies, such as reducing promoter size to better fit in an Adeno-associated virus (AAV) vector or adding enhancer elements to regulate the strength of its effect, is a key attraction.

Furthermore, technology developed by Circularis can help improve synthetic biology projects by discovering and improving promoters in a variety of bacterial and yeast species.

Ginkgo, which went public last year through a SPAC merger, began with a focus on synthetic biology and developing engineered microorganisms with multiple applications.

However, in recent years, it has moved further into the advanced therapeutics field. The Circularis platform also enables ultra-high-throughput promoter and enhancer screening.

For instance, Ginkgo has a collaboration with Biogen to improve adeno-associated virus (AAV) manufacturing, as well as a collaboration with Selecta Biosciences to develop next-generation AAV vectors with improved targeting and immunogenicity for gene and cell therapies.

It also collaborates with Moderna and Aldevron in the RNA space, with the goal of improving circular RNA efficacy and manufacturing yields.

The Circularis platform strengthens Ginkgo’s platform for development of cell and gene therapies, providing the capability to rapidly identify novel promoters with appropriate strength and tissue-specificity designed into customer-specific delivery modalities

Founded in 2017, Altar has developed a proprietary adaptive evolution platform (based on their Genemat technology) that enables continuous cultivation of microorganisms under selective pressure controlled by algorithms.

Ginkgo’s acquisition will bring Altar’s automated adaptive laboratory evolution (ALE) instruments to Ginkgo’s Foundry in Boston to serve customers across food and beverage, biofuels, biomaterials, cosmetics, animal health, and human health applications, among others.

Ginkgo and Altar have previously worked together on customer programs.

The company noted that engineering microorganisms that meet target specifications under industrially relevant conditions remains difficult due to the complexity and unknowns of the underlying genetics despite enormous progress in rational genome editing and high-throughput testing of engineered strains over the last decade.

ALE may be able to address this issue and aid in the development of specific phenotypes, such as those based on improved growth in normally unfavorable conditions.

It will supplement Ginkgo’s existing strain engineering capabilities by engineering target phenotypes that can be selected based on improved growth properties under defined process conditions.

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