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Ginkgo Bioworks, Transcriptic Awarded $9.5M DARPA Contract

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Synthetic biology company Ginkgo Bioworks and robotic automation software developer Transcriptic have been awarded a joint $9.5 million contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) through its Synergistic Discovery and Design Program (SD2).

Ginkgo and Transcriptic said they will use the SD2 funds to incorporate machine learning, closed loop biology, and automated execution of protocols to advance biological experimentation and accelerate iterative testing for synthetic biology.

The terabytes of biological data generated by Ginkgo — including genome sequences and transcriptomic, metabolomic, and proteomic data — will be analyzed using Transcriptic's advanced artificial intelligence, to design experiments performed on its robotic cloud-based laboratory platform. The companies will also work to develop new platforms to accelerate discovery and design, as well as produce a cloud-based open data exchange to benefit research and academic communities in other scientific domains, they added.

The DARPA award will also expand the firms' existing collaboration on automation in organism design, which began in October 2017. Ginkgo announced at the time that it was investing $10 million over five years to incorporate Transcriptic's robotic automation software into its organism design work. 

The firm subsequently raised $275 million in Series D funding to grow its organism foundry and expand into new markets, and established a $100 million joint venture with Bayer to develop fertilizer-producing organisms.