March 14, 2020

Grapeless Wine And Cowless Milk: 60+ Synthetic Biology Startups In A Market Map

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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.


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.


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.


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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