ESG is in our DNA

August 02 2022

Biology affects all of us, and its impact reaches to the core of who we are and everything about our natural world. Because of this, we need to take extraordinary care in how biological tools are built and used. We’re part of Ginkgo Bioworks, and our organization strives to make sure the biosecurity and cell programming technologies we develop reflect our values. Ginkgo recently published its inaugural sustainability report detailing our commitment to Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) priorities and how care underscores everything we do.

At Ginkgo, we care how our platform is used. The sustainability report is structured around three core values:

  • The impact of cell programming: biology is the native language of our environment, and we must use it as a tool to help address some of the greatest challenges we face today, from food security, to climate change, and global health. 
  • Technology isn’t neutral, and as we build new technologies, we embed our values into the platforms and products that we make. We strive to bring unique experiences, ideas, and perspectives into our work and into the broader bioeconomy to better share that power. 
  • Ownership is the first step in caring, and, as employees, we have an outsized influence on how our platform is developed and deployed so that we can build a company whose long-term impacts make us proud.

One of the big ways in which we strive for social impact is through our work in responding to COVID-19 and preparing for future pandemics. In March 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic was emerging, Ginkgo committed $25 million of free access to its cell programming platform to support partners in the fight against COVID-19. This initial commitment led to impactful partnerships with Moderna and Aldevron yielding key improvements to mRNA vaccine manufacturing. As the Ginkgo team watched the disruption and challenges of the pandemic unfold in 2020, we knew that we had to try everything we could to help.

Concentric was born out of this instinct, to do whatever we could to provide public health tools to communities everywhere.

Concentric: Built with Care

We set out to leverage Ginkgo’s capabilities for mobilizing cutting-edge biotechnology and large-scale operations to meet the needs of communities with flexible, accessible tools to empower them in the fight against COVID-19. Fast forward two years, and Concentric’s pathogen monitoring platform has now tested over 10 million samples and sequenced over 35,000 viral genomes across more than 5,300 organizations, including schools, airports, and other congregate settings. 

We’re continually expanding our biosecurity offerings and developing new capabilities to prepare for future biological threats — from next-generation sequencing, to passive monitoring, to assays to detect a variety of pathogens. But biosecurity isn’t just about anticipating and responding to threats. As two of our leaders, Jason Kelly and Christina Agapakis, put it in the recent report, “For many years, [caring] has meant being able to imagine the end of the world… We believe that caring about people and the planet now requires being able to imagine a better world.” 

We seek to leverage biology to grow a future in which we all can thrive. We’re striving to build the next generation of biosecurity, bioresilience, and public health infrastructure, piece by piece, toward this goal. And we know that in order for this infrastructure to have sustainable and equitable impact, it must be built with care at the foundation.

An Equitable Future

Health equity is central to this caring foundation. The COVID-19 pandemic shone a light on the systemic issue of health inequity—in the US, it has been communities of color that have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, have faced challenges in accessing testing, treatment, and vaccination, and have faced persistently worse outcomes from infection. 

We know that if we don’t prioritize meaningful inclusion of diverse voices, especially from historically marginalized communities, we could end up building tools that exacerbate inequity. That’s why we prioritize efforts to recruit and retain diverse talent across all parts of Ginkgo, and we at Concentric have leveraged a broad and diverse network of partnerships to create space to co-design our offerings with the communities we serve. 

Similar inequities also play out on a global scale, where many middle- to low-income countries still face tremendous barriers to accessing pandemic response and preparedness capabilities. To this end, Ginkgo has partnered with Africa CDC’s Institute of Pathogen Genomics to better integrate pathogen genomics and bioinformatics into public health surveillance and outbreak investigations, and to improve disease control and prevention across the continent’s public health institutions. 

Our Sustainability Strategy

The Ginkgo sustainability report details so many other ways in which we prioritize care and sustainability. We have a deep, humble respect for biology, and we’re working towards a future where biosecurity measures are built into synthetic biology to address biology’s inherent unpredictability across the bioeconomy. We also recognize that we face an urgent environmental crisis in the form of climate change, loss of biodiversity, and pollution—and we’re starting to seek out ways to leverage biosecurity tools to promote environmental security. 

We encourage you to take a look at the report and reach out to partner with us in our efforts to grow a sustainable, equitable, thriving future through biosecurity. After all, everyone’s health is connected.