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Chemistry In Pictures

Chemistry in Pictures: Deal toy

by Craig Bettenhausen
August 10, 2022

A hand holds an amber-colored plastic trophy with a glass vial inside, the NYSE can be seen in the background.
Credit: Ginkgo Bioworks

It’s no surprise that Jurassic Park is a touchstone of the workplace culture at the industrial biotech firm Ginkgo Bioworks. The company is doing for real the kinds of gene recombination imagined in the blockbuster 1990 novel and 1993 movie. But instead of resurrecting dinosaurs, it’s creating new microbes, fungi, and even plant and animal cell lines that can do useful work. The examples described by Ginkgo’s creative director, Christina Agapakis, included serious things, such as yeasts that excrete cancer medications or specialty chemicals instead of ethanol, as well as projects designed to capture the imagination, such as glowing houseplants spiked with genes from bioluminescent mushrooms.

A fake t-rex skeleton stands in a lobby near some booths and a hammock.
Credit: Craig Bettenhausen/C&EN
Ginkgo’s t-rex guards two of the firm’s “phonebooths,” which staff use for virtual meetings in the otherwise open-concept office space, continuing the Jurassic Park motif.

So when the firm went public via a “SPAC” merger in 2021, it celebrated the milestone with custom DNA samples encased in amber-colored lucite, a nod to the amber-preserved mosquitos in Jurassic Park. Companies often give “deal toys” like these, which Ginkgo made 40 of, to key staff to celebrate big company milestones like mergers or initial stock offerings. Instead of holding the genomes of long extinct animals, the DNA in Ginkgo’s trophies encodes the text of the firm’s S-4 filings with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

Credit: Ginkgo Bioworks

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