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Synthetic Bio Company Goes Public in $2.5B Merger

Investment graphic

(Gerd Altmann, Pixabay)

11 May 2021. A company developing synthetic biology and engineering tools for biotechnology is becoming a public company through a special-purpose acquisition. Soaring Eagle Acquisition Corp. is merging with Ginkgo Bioworks Inc. in Boston, to take Ginkgo Bioworks public, and raising $2.5 billion in proceeds for the merged company.

Soaring Eagle is a publicly-traded special purpose acquisition company or SPAC, a shell company created to merge with a private business to take that enterprise public, in this case Ginkgo Bioworks. While technically a public company, a SPAC raises funds from private investors to make the acquisition, with Arie Belldegrun, an early cell- and gene-therapy entrepreneur, among the leading investors in this transaction. The merger, in effect, turns the acquired enterprise into a public company, usually in less time and fewer steps than a conventional IPO, or initial public stock offering.

Ginkgo Bioworks is a 13 year-old company developing synthetic biology and engineering tools for biotechnology in medicines, agriculture, and bio-based materials. The company offers synthesized nucleic acids, including DNA, to design microorganisms for producing special-purpose enzymes and other bio-chemicals. Gingo Bioworks says its codebase — a library of cells, enzymes, and genetic programs — helps shortcut the discovery process for generating new bio-engineered products. In addition, Ginkgo Bioworks provides robotics and software, including artificial intelligence, to support its synthetic biology and engineering work.

“The magic of biology is that cells run on digital code similar to a computer, except that instead of 0s and 1s it’s As, Ts, Cs, and Gs,” says Jason Kelly, co-founder and CEO of Ginkgo Bioworks in a company statement released through Cision. “Ginkgo’s platform makes it easier to program this code, and we are making this platform available to organizations working to solve our most pressing problems.”

Several Covid-19 applications

Ginkgo Bioworks collaborates with other companies to produce a variety of synthetic biology products. The company says vaccine developers use Gingo’s technology to create a production process for mRNA vaccines, including Covid-19 vaccines. Ginkgo also began a separate project called Concentric to develop simple Covid-19 tests for schools to use with their students. As reported by Science & Enterprise in September 2020, Ginkgo Bioworks is partnering with Totient, a new company developing synthetic antibodies for Covid-19 treatments.

Ginkgo Bioworks expects to raise $2.5 billion in the deal. Soaring Eagle is providing $1.725 billion in cash, with another $775 million raised from a consortium of investors through a private investment in public equity or PIPE transaction. The consortium is led by Eagle Equity Partners, the private equity company behind Soaring Eagle, and Bellco Capital, a venture investor led by Arie and Rebecka Belldegrun. Arie Belldegrun is an academic medical researcher turned entrepreneur, who founded cell therapy pioneer Kite Pharma, acquired by Gilead Sciences in October 2017, and gene therapy company Allogene.

Joining the consortium are Baillie Gifford, Putnam Investments, and funds and accounts managed by Counterpoint Global, part of Morgan Stanley, accounts advised by ARK Investment Management LLC, ArrowMark Partners, Bain Capital Public Equity, Berkshire Partners, and Franklin Advisers. Also joining are current investors Cascade Investment, Casdin Capital, General Atlantic, Senator Investment Group, funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates, Inc., and Viking Global Investors.

Soaring Eagle says Ginkgo Bioworks’ market value now is $15 billion, and expects to generate $150 million in revenues this year, nearly doubling its income from 2020. And from the merger, Soaring Eagle expects to soon change its name to Ginkgo Bioworks Holdings Inc., and trade under a new ticker symbol.

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