Synthetic biology pioneer Ginkgo Bioworks agreed to go public today in a $17.5 billion SPAC deal. The Boston-based company will merge with Soaring Eagle Acquisition Corp., a blank-check firm founded by Hollywood exec Harry Sloan in a giant deal for SPAC companies on Nasdaq.
Ginkgo Bioworks was founded in 2008 by CEO Jason Kelly, an MIT Ph.D., three classmates—Reshma Shetty, Barry Canton and Austin Che—and their professor Tom Knight. Their vision was to create better tools for biology, allowing them to reinvent the way we make everything from fertilizers to industrial products.
It was early in the nascent field, and in the early days the founders scrounged for equipment at auction. “We don’t look like normal biotech founders,” Kelly told Forbes in 2019. “No one starts a biotech company out of school, we weren’t doing a therapeutic, and we had no product in mind.”
The past few years have been exciting times for companies like Ginkgo (named after a dinosaur-era tree that’s a living fossil) that work in the emerging field of synthetic biology. Last month, Zymergen went public in an IPO that valued the firm at $3 billion. Gingko’s deal values the company at $15 billion, with the merger pumping in $2.5 billion of capital.
Ginkgo has taken a portfolio approach, working with 70 different customers across diverse industries. It has spun off a number of companies, including Joyn Bio, a joint venture with Bayer on ag tech, and Motif Foodworks, which focuses on alternative proteins. In its investor presentation, Ginkgo says that it expects the market for bioengineered products to surpass $2 trillion over the next 20 years.
In that presentation, Gingko says that its revenue reached $77 million last year, up 41% from $54 million in 2019. It expects that revenue will nearly double this year to $150 million. That means the company’s valuation is expected to be more than 115 times its 2021 projected revenue. Ginkgo forecasts that revenue will continue to rise rapidly, surpassing $1 billion by 2025.
Arie Belldegrun, who started Kite Pharma and Allogene Therapeutics, is cosponsoring the deal with Soaring Eagle. He and Sloan, who is Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s former chairman, will join Ginkgo’s board of directors.
For more on Ginkgo Bioworks, see our magazine feature “The Life Factory.”
This story is developing and will be updated.