Boehringer Ingelheim to Mine Ginkgo’s Molecules in $406M Undruggable Targets Deal

Pictured: Image of robotic arm in lab, courtesy of Ginkgo Bioworks

Pictured: Image of robotic arm in lab, courtesy of Ginkgo Bioworks

Boehringer Ingelheim is mining Ginkgo Bioworks’ bioactive molecules in a deal that could add up to $406 million for the cell programming and biosecurity company.

On Monday, Ginkgo announced BI will leverage its metagenomic sequence database to accelerate the development of novel therapeutics, particularly in diseases considered undruggable with high unmet patient needs. Ginkgo’s metagenomic database now comprises over three terabases of sequence data and more than two billion proprietary protein sequences from a variety of microbes, according to the company.

Ginkgo will receive an undisclosed amount to cover upfront research fees, with development, regulatory, and commercial milestone payments for a specified but not detailed number of projects for a total of $406 million. It’s also entitled to further payment in royalties on sales in the future.

This collaboration is one of several for BI recently. In April, the German pharma giant partnered with RetinAI to utilize its artificial intelligence technology to develop a novel treatment for geographic atrophy, a leading cause of blindness affecting around 5 million people worldwide. And in January, BI teamed up with 3T Biosciences to focus on next-gen cancer immunotherapies, combining 3T’s T-Cell Receptor Antigen and Cross-Reactivity Engine discovery platform and BI’s cancer compounds.

Ginkgo has been adding to its assets, last month acquiring StrideBio’s AAV capsid library and discovery platform to strengthen end-to-end capabilities in gene therapy. The press release touted the addition as turning the company into a “one-stop shop” for gene therapy R&D across capsid, payload and cell line optimization. Although the buy came with StrideBio’s preclinical asset for arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy, Ginkgo is not moving into clinical development.

Last summer, Ginkgo also acquired Zymergen for $300 million, integrating the latter’s core automation and software technologies into its synthetic biology platform used to design, build, and test organisms at scale.

BI has upped the ante on innovation recently, as evidenced by its rising ranking on Idea Pharma’s 2023 Index from 27th place to tie Eli Lilly for 6th place. Its blockbuster drug Jardiance, developed with Eli Lilly, continues to expand indications, while the company also adds new drugs to its portfolio. 

Kate Goodwin is a freelance life science writer based in Des Moines, Iowa. She can be reached at and on LinkedIn

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