Bayer and Ginkgo Bioworks will create a new company focused on the plant microbiome. Improving the microbes’ ability to make nitrogen fertilizer available for plants offers a major potential benefit to sustainable agriculture.
The new company will be co-located with Ginkgo in Boston’s thriving biotechnology community and in West Sacramento, California, home of Bayer’s R&D activities around plant biologics.
The new company will focus on technologies to improve plant-associated microbes with a major focus on nitrogen fixation. While some crops such as soybeans, peas and other legumes can pair with specific microbes that live within the plant and fulfill their nitrogen needs, most other crops cannot. Nitrogen fertilizer is therefore an essential component in modern agriculture.
“Accessing the microbiome is part of Bayer’s innovation strategy. We are launching this enterprise to develop transformative agricultural products based on the latest synthetic biology technology,” said Kemal Malik, member of the Board of Management of Bayer AG and responsible for Innovation. “We have exclusively partnered with Ginkgo to build a leading player in this field.”
Dr. Mike Miille will be named interim CEO of the new company. He is a biotech veteran in the field of agricultural use of the microbiome, former CEO of AgraQuest and currently Vice President Strategy and Business Management Biologics at Crop Science, a division of Bayer.
“Biology is changing industries as diverse as flavor and fragrance to consumer electronics. Agriculture is the original biological technology, and the more we can learn to work with the soil microbiome, the more we can discover new ways to add value to farmers and return to its biological, and more sustainable, roots,” said Jason Kelly, co-founder and CEO of Ginkgo Bioworks. “We’re thrilled to be working with Bayer to bring this transformational aspiration to life.”
The new company will operate out of Ginkgo’s Boston Seaport facility. Ginkgo is a rapidly growing biotech company building a versatile automated platform for engineering biology, with applications across industries such as consumer products and personal care, health and medicine, and food and agriculture.