Bayer, Ginkgo Bioworks To Launch New Plant Microbiome

The microorganisms that live in us and on us have shown to play a role in conditions ranging from obesity to cancer and neurodegenerative disease. And scientists and investors worldwide are starting to turn to the microbiome, which many believe hold the key to human health.

Now, Ginkgo Bioworks and Bayer have announced that they have established a new agricultural biotechnology company focused on developing technologies and products for sustainable agriculture.

The new venture between pharmaceutical and chemical giant Bayer and Ginkgo Bioworks aims to replace manmade nitrogen fertilizer in agriculture by using genetically modified microbes.

The yet-to-be-named entity will be co-located in Bayer’s California site and new facilities built by Ginkgo right by its Boston site. It has received an initial investment that raises to a massive $100M (€84M), chipped in by Bayer, Ginkgo and Viking Global Investors. Its CEO will be Mike Miille, a veteran in the field of agricultural applications of the microbiome as former CEO of AgraQuest and VP at Bayer’s Crop Science division after the company was acquired by Bayer.

The Board of Directors of the new company will be composed of two representatives from Ginkgo Bioworks – Dr. Jason Kelly and Dr

. Reshma Shetty – and two representatives from Bayer – Dr. Axel Bouchon and Dr. Juergen Eckhardt.

As part of the deal, Ginkgo will build a new facility for the company, as well as provide it with exclusive access to its technology and resources. Bayer will also provide it with exclusive access to proprietary microbial strains and expertise. Its most immediate activities will focus on nitrogen fixation, developing microbes that will deliver nitrogen to crops, reducing the impact of the conventional nitrogen fertilizers used in modern agriculture.

“The plant microbiome is one of the next frontiers in sustainable agriculture,” said Axel Bouchon, head of the Bayer Lifescience Center. “And it may enable us to take a major leap in plant physiology: producing nitrogen fertilizer directly in the plant.”

Disha Padmanabha
In search of the perfect burger. Serial eater. In her spare time, practises her "Vader Voice". Passionate about dance. Real Weird.