Nitrogen molecular formula Jupiterimages/ThinkstockPhotos

Joyn Bio formed to bring synthetic biology to agriculture

Nitrogen fixation is Joyn Bio’s first focus area.

Joyn Bio is the official name of the Bayer and Ginkgo joint venture announced in September 2017. Joyn Bio was founded with the goal of bringing advanced techniques in synthetic biology to agriculture to support the industry’s sustainability efforts, starting with reducing the environmental impact of nitrogen fertilizer. The companies have established research operations in Boston, Mass., and opened additional facilities in West Sacramento, Calif. 

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. Joyn Bio’s first effort in this arena is focused on improving microbes’ ability to provide cereal crops their nitrogen requirements, offering major benefits for sustainable agriculture by reducing the need for additional chemical fertilizers.

"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, 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 disruptive applications of synthetic biology in the agriculture industry. 

What's in a name?

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. In addition to the initial $100 million Series A investment by Bayer, Ginkgo, and Viking Global Investors LP, Ginkgo is providing access to its organism design technology, laboratory, and office spaces, as well as outfitting a new facility specifically for Joyn Bio. Bayer is providing exclusive access to its own archive of microbial strains and the necessary development intelligence for the application of microbes onto seeds in agriculture.

"We are excited to engage the broader life science community through Joyn Bio. As we establish the company’s scientific programs, this partnership will provide us with state-of-the-art infrastructure and access to the vibrant biotech innovations of the Boston area and agriculture expertise within the Crop Science division of Bayer and their global network of ag customers," said Dr. Mike Miille, CEO of Joyn Bio. "Advancing our mission even further, we’re looking forward to bringing together the brightest minds in synthetic biology and AgTech as we grow the company."

The Joyn Bio team is characterizing Bayer’s extensive library of more than 100,000 proprietary microbial strains using the high-throughput advanced analytics of Ginkgo’s foundries. The unprecedented scale of biological data generated using the sophisticated foundry tools is enabling Joyn Bio to identify the strains and characteristics necessary to further develop nitrogen fixing bacteria for sustainable agriculture.

Recruiting employees

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, more than 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. Joyn Bio will have its own scientific leadership and management team enabling the company to run as an independent and sustainable organization.

Source: Bayer

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