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Bayer, Ginkgo Bioworks names new tech partnership Joyn Bio


Joyn Bio will be digging into some of the latest advancements in synthetic biology for agriculture.

Never heard of Joyn Bio? Don’t worry, until today, no one else had either. The name belongs to the new technology partnership announced between Bayer and Ginkgo Bioworks back in September. In conjunction with today’s name announcement, Joyn Bio said it has established operations in Boston and West Sacramento, where the two coasts will have an active hand in helping the farmers in between them.

The name Joyn Bio references the partnering of the two parent companies, as well as the natural symbiosis between plants and microbes, which is the foundation of the company’s mission. The plant microbiome living in roots and soil is vital to global farming practices, as it provides nutrients to plants, protects them from pests, and aids them in difficult environmental conditions.

Corn seeds on the left and soybean seeds on the right have Bayer’s VOTiVO crop protection.

Joyn Bio’s initial goal is helping to usher in more advanced uses for synthetic biology, starting with reducing the environmental impact of nitrogen fertilizer. The partnership is the fifth investment of Leaps by Bayer, a division of the medical and agricultural company that invests in ways to solve some of today’s biggest problems. Bayer is providing exclusive access to more than 100,000 proprietary microbial strains and the necessary development intel for the application of microbes onto seeds in agriculture; Ginkgo is providing access to its technology (such as high-throughput advanced analytics), laboratory, and office spaces. 

“Nitrogen fertilizer is a key component in modern agriculture, but is costly, damaging to the environment and challenging to dose precisely. We are committed to bringing innovations to the agriculture industry that give growers a smarter and more sustainable way to grow our food,” said Johan Kers, head of nitrogen fixation for Joyn Bio. “I’m thrilled to be Joyn Bio’s first employee and help the team in creating a solution that benefits growers and our environment.”

While nitrogen fixation is Joyn Bio’s first focus area, the company is exploring other applications of synthetic biology in the agriculture industry.

Image courtesy of Ginkgo Bioworks

Bayer, Ginkgo, and Viking Global Investors have kicked in a total of $100 million for this partnership, with the hope of having a major impact on agriculture.

Joyn Bio has recently entered into an agreement for approximately 20,000 square feet of laboratory and office space within Ginkgo’s Boston Seaport facility hosting up to 30 employees and forming the company headquarters. Additional research efforts are performed at the West Sacramento facility, a global Bayer R&D site for microbial-based solutions in agriculture with 160,000 square feet, over 200 researchers, a state-of-the-art pilot plant, and greenhouses.

To date, Joyn Bio has 10 employees split across the two sites and is actively recruiting for scientific positions related to synthetic biology, plant-microbe interactions, and soil ecosystems.

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