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Biobased Chemicals

Solvay establishes synthetic biology hub in the US

Chemical maker will acquire a Ginkgo Bioworks lab in Massachusetts

by Alex Scott
April 6, 2023 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 101, Issue 12


The big Belgian chemical maker Solvay has formed a partnership with the US synthetic biology firm Ginkgo Bioworks in a bid to develop more biobased products. As part of the agreement, Solvay will acquire a lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts, that Ginkgo got in 2022 as part of its $300 million purchase of Zymergen.

The partnership’s initial focus will be on developing biopolymers and specialty chemicals for markets including home and personal care, agriculture, and food. Solvay is seeking to develop biomaterials both for existing and new markets, CEO Ilham Kadri says in a press release. “Biotech is the future and this step is an important milestone for our growth platform,” she says.

Biobased products Solvay already produces include a natural alternative to synthetic vanillin, a polymer sourced from guar seeds, and silica for tires that is derived from rice husks.

Ginkgo’s core capability is the programming of cells to make food, materials, and therapeutics. “For a company the size of Solvay, Ginkgo is the only viable choice because of its unique knowledge gained from the Zymergen acquisition and the breadth of knowledge the platform has aggregated to date from its numerous industry partnerships,” says Joshua Boen, who covers synthetic biology at the research and advisory firm Lux Research.

Ginkgo has formed a number of partnerships in recent months and just acquired a family of gene therapy tools from StrideBio. Ginkgo went public in 2021. Its shares started trading at $11.50 but are now below $2.



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