Merck, Ginkgo Bioworks strike deal worth up to $490M to 'optimize' biologics manufacturing

After striking a deal centered on enzyme production last fall, Merck and Ginkgo have teamed up again in a biologic manufacturing collaboration worth up to $490 million.

Under the deal, Ginkgo will contribute its cell engineering, “ultra-high-throughput multiplexed screening, protein characterization” and process optimization know-how to streamline production and boost output, Ginkgo said in a Monday release.

In turn, the Boston-based company, armed with its cell programming platform, could score more than $490 million from upfront research fees, optional license payouts and milestone payments.

Ginkgo is “thrilled to leverage our platform to improve the production of biologics in collaboration with Merck,” CEO and co-founder Jason Kelly said in the release.

For its part, Merck is “always seeking new and innovative ways to optimize process efficiency while maintaining product integrity,” Dr. Michael Kress, senior vice president of development sciences and clinical supply at Merck Research Laboratories, said in a statement.

The partnership follows last October’s deal worth up to $144 million to strengthen Merck’s active pharmaceutical ingredient manufacturing through Ginkgo’s biocatalytic enzyme platform. The contract covered work on up to four enzymes.

And earlier this summer, Ginkgo secured a deal with the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency for up to $18 million.

Before that, Ginkgo and Novo Nordisk linked up in a multiyear collaboration to “unlock the potential” of expression systems that could speed up the discovery and development of Novo’s products. Previously, the company inked deals with Select, Optimvia, Biogen and Aldevron.