Ginkgo adds ‘circular’ RNA with Circularis buy

The addition of Circularis and its circular RNA technology will support growing demand for nucleic acid and advanced therapy services, says Ginkgo Bioworks.

The deal, of which financials have not been disclosed, sees Ginkgo add Circularis’ promoter screening platform to its existing technology. According to Ginkgo, the platform enables ultra-high throughput screening of enhancers and promoters, and the firm sees circular RNA (circRNA) as a potential therapeutic modality.

“Circularis is developing cutting edge circular RNA technology, and we expect a growing number of therapies to be based on circular RNA in the coming years, given the advantages circRNA can provide over other nucleic acid approaches, such as messenger RNA (mRNA),” a spokesperson for Ginkgo told BioProcess Insider.

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“Additionally, their promoter screening platform allows for ultra-high-throughput screening of promoters and other enhancers to accelerate our work across cell and gene therapy.”

The spokesperson told us that circRNA “is just what it sounds like,” adding that “because it has no ends, it tends to be much less susceptible to degradation – and hence survives longer in a cell. From a therapeutic standpoint, delivering a circular RNA then could result in more sustained production of the therapy.”

Bolstering CGT

Ginkgo says that the acquisition will strengthen its platform for the development of cell and gene therapies, as it can quickly identify novel promoters that have the required strength and tissue-specificity designed to deliver customer specific modalities.

Furthermore, Ginkgo claims that Circularis’ platform enables the firm to recognize context-specific promoters for various cell therapy applications, such as the tumor microenvironment.

“Ginkgo’s customers bring us a concept, whether it’s a novel therapeutic modality or a biologically produced ingredient, and we use our cell programming platform to help bring that to life,” the spokesperson said.

“We’re always on the lookout for tools and technologies that we can integrate into our platform that will add new capabilities or enhance existing tools, and Circularis was an obvious fit. Circularis adds richer capabilities to our emerging cell and gene therapy focus area and we are excited about the growth we are seeing in that space.”

Ginkgo will take on Circularis’ employees, which it says is less than ten people. The team members will operate out of the firms Emeryville, California facility.

In August 2022, Merck (known as MSD outside of the US and Canada) made an upfront payment of $150 million to circular RNA therapy firm Orna to discover, drive, and commercialize different programs.