Meet Eight Tech Titans Investing In Synthetic Biology
“DNA is like a computer program but far, far more advanced than any software ever created.” Bill Gates wrote this in 1995, long before synthetic biology – a scientific discipline focused on reading, writing, and editing DNA – was being harnessed to program living cells. Today, the cost to order a custom DNA sequence has fallen faster than Moore’s law; perhaps that’s why the Microsoft founder is turning a significant part of his attention, and wallet, towards this exciting field.
Bill Gates is not the only tech founder billionaire that sees a parallel between bits and biology, either. Many other tech founders – the same people that made their money programming 1s and 0s – are now investing in biotech founders poised to make their own fortunes by programming A’s, T’s, G’s and C’s.
The industry has raised more than $12.3B in the last 10 years and last year, 98 synthetic biology companies collectively raised $3.8 billion, compared to just under $400 million total invested less than a decade ago. Synthetic biology companies are disrupting nearly every industry, from agriculture to medicine to cell-based meats. Engineered microorganisms are even being used to produce more sustainable fabricsand manufacture biofuels from recycled carbon emissions.
This remarkable versatility, and the notion that biology can be programmed much like a computer, has attracted investors that want to “pay it forward” to the next generation of entrepreneurs. Data Collective, where I’m an Operating Partner, has made numerous investments in synthetic biology companies. Large investments have also come from tech titans like Eric Schmidt (Google), Peter Thiel (PayPal), Vinod Khosla (Sun Microsystems), Marc Andreessen (Netscape), Jerry Yang (Yahoo!), Bill Gates (Microsoft), Bryan Johnson (Venmo), and Max Levchin (PayPal), each of whom have made highly successful exits and are now fostering a golden new age in the engineering and programming of biology.
Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt is one of the world’s most successful business leaders and arguably one of the Internet’s most important people. In 2010 he co-founded Innovation Endeavors, an early-stage venture capital firm that believes that recent advances in science and technology will create exponential rates of change and emergent ecosystems in a new world. The firm has invested in synthetic biology-enabled companies including Zymergen, Bolt Threads, Ukko, and GRO Biosciences.
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