Ginkgo Bioworks doesn’t want the biotech industry’s therapies. But it does want the platforms that create them, which is why the cell programming company is buying up StrideBio for its gene therapy intellectual property.
The acquisition will bring StrideBio’s adeno-associated virus (AAV) capsid discovery and engineering platform called STRIVE under Ginkgo’s wing, including a library of well-tested and advanced capsids that could provide fodder for future partnerships. The deal is part of Ginkgo’s broader M&A strategy to pick up new, complimentary biotech platforms.
“I’m sure you’ve seen this kind of movie play over and over again, but one of the things we observed that is really disappointing to us in the market is that whether or not a drug is successful, once there’s a candidate, all of the resources go to that candidate and the R&D efforts—the platform technologies are often left to collect dust,” said Anna Marie Wagner, Ginkgo’s head of corporate development.
“If the drug fails, God forbid, then people often assume that the platform wasn’t good,
Ginkgo wants to dust off those technologies and bring in the pieces that are still sound. Companies aren’t necessarily experts in everything it takes to build a gene therapy, which includes pieces such as manufacturing, promoter engineering, capsid engineering, broader enzyme engineering or payloads. That’s what Ginkgo has its eye on—fitting together the right technology for complex modalities like cell and gene therapies so that partner companies can shop for the pieces they need to make the best therapies.
“No one is doing everything well, and so you end up with a situation where everyone’s touching one small piece of the elephant,” Wagner said. “They don’t necessarily have a fully integrated toolkit that is solving the broader challenges, and that’s really what Ginkgo is looking to build.”
That means Ginkgo is specifically after Stridebio’s IP—not its gene therapy manufacturing facility, and definitely not its lead preclinical asset STRX-330 for arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy. That program will be out-licensed or sold off to a partner of some kind.
Only one staff member will come over in the transaction, while founder Aravind Asokan, Ph.D., will be offered a consulting role. According to LinkedIn, StrideBio has a staff of about 33 people.
“We are really acquiring the assets that we want,” Wagner said. Ginkgo was clear on this intention from the beginning of the deal talks, she said.
Ginkgo was specifically interested in the STRIVE platform because of its potential to generate novel AAV capsids that address the limitations of gene therapy, such as targeted biodistribution, preexisting immunogenicity and manufacturability. These capsids could push gene therapy beyond the typical application in the liver to muscle and the central nervous system.
The idea that eventually led to the StrideBio acquisition originated about a year and a half ago, when Ginkgo did an internal road map for its cell and gene therapy ambitions. Executives laid out which area of the business to get into and the companies that had what they were after. The first deal from this strategy was Circularis, for its circular RNA promoter screening platform.
StrideBio, meanwhile, went through a couple of strategic pivots to try to find its footing and focus area in a tough market for biotechs. Then Ginkgo came along, recognizing that the platform could be in better hands at the bigger company. When it came time to select the more drastic strategic alternative—a buyout—the relationship was already built, Wagner said. Ginkgo managed to snag StrideBio even amid a flurry of demand for the capsid library.