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10 Fastest Growing Robotics Companies 2018

Engineering Biology to Shape the World around Us: Zymergen

thesiliconreview-joshua-hoffman-ceo-zymergen-18“We are a technology company unlocking the power of biology to shape the world around us.”

True innovation is about finding new and better ways to solve tough, real-world problems that span industries — from agriculture to chemical manufacturing and healthcare. Zymergen is unlocking the power of biology to solve these problems with its customers.

Founded in 2013 and based in the San Francisco Bay Area, the company engineers better microbes that make useful molecules, which are part of all the materials in our daily lives. Zymergen is engineering biology predictably, reliably and to levels of performance unattainable through traditional R&D methods. Its comprehensive approach brings together technology, automation, and biology with the most sophisticated capabilities in each. As a result, Zymergen delivers better economics for current products, helps customers bring new products to market faster, and develops novel products the world has not yet seen. It works with Fortune 500 companies that span industries, including chemical and materials, agriculture, and healthcare.

Zymergen Mechanism: Letting the Data Speak For Itself

Strain Improvement and Development:

Zymergen uses its technology platform to optimize strains in order to improve the economics for its customers.

  • Improving Existing Processes: Zymergen works with its customers to improve the economics of existing industrial fermentation products. Its platform enables them to build improvements into their existing production strains within their existing manufacturing processes. The company augments its customers’ capabilities and helps them get more out of their existing capital assets. Zymergen has a track record of improving capital utilization for customers’ existing products, accelerating time-to-market for new products, and delivering significant cost reductions for both.
  • From The Lab to Full-Scale Manufacturing: Historically, predicting the performance of strains at manufacturing levels of production based on small-scale models has been prone to failure. Zymergen’s platform improves the correlation between the lab and full-scale commercial manufacturing, reducing risk and timelines for its customers.

Materials Science Innovation:

Zymergen’s platform enables rapid materials science innovation utilizing chemicals available from biology.

  • Advanced Materials Development: The Company’s platform offers the capability to create unique specialty materials. Zymergen can develop novel molecules that impart unique material properties not previously possible using traditional methods. It is partnering with proven innovators across industries to develop these novel products.

Bringing Together Data Science, Automation and Biology

Zymergen is first and foremost a technology company, approaching biology with an engineering and data-driven mindset. Its platform integrates technology, automation, and biology to deliver unprecedented levels of predictability and reliability.


An Integrated Approach: The Design-Build-Test-Analyze-Learn (DBTAL) cycle guides Zymergen’s work as it improves the performance of the microbes Zymergen engineers. The company’s algorithms generate specific proposed designs for biological systems, which is then built and tested in Zymergen’s factory. Using its proprietary software, the firm analyzes the data to identify areas of interest to further refine its design strategy for subsequent DBTAL cycles. The integration of machine learning and biology allows to systematically and efficiently explore the design space. Zymergen thereby obtains breakthrough results that are not always foreseeable, but nonetheless achievable and repeatable as a function of its integrated DBTAL approach.

A Flexible Platform: Zymergen has proven capability to work on the full range of microbes currently used for industrial production. In addition to classic hosts such as S. cerevisiae and E. coli, it works in filamentous fungi, as well as a range of yeasts, gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria. The firm’s host-agnostic platform provides flexibility not seen in the most sophisticated labs. This unique capability allows working with customers already committed to a particular host type and latitude when developing novel products.


Robotics for High Throughput Biology: Zymergen automates every step of the process at a level of precision that removes the guesswork and human error. Zymergen’s robots – and the protocols it created to control them – enables to build and test thousands of strains with resources typically required to build and test a handful of strains, fueling breakthroughs far more quickly and predictably.

Working Smarter: Automating the lab generates vastly more data than manual lab work. The firm’s automation layer feeds directly into its computational data architecture. By integrating automation and analysis, Zymergen is able to rapidly capture information from its robots to improve its operations and engineering designs.


Integrated Data Collection System: At Zymergen, the quality of its scientific efforts rests on its data collection capabilities. Instruments and sensors throughout the lab feed data to its software management system where Zymergen catalogs every assay, plate, and strain from the lab. The ability to easily compare laboratory conditions across experiments reduces errors and increases efficacy. The more experiments Zymergen runs, the more powerful its data library becomes, delivering results to customers at an ever faster pace.

Decoding Biology With Machine Learning: Zymergen’s platform enables to process and prioritize the enormous volume of data it collects to efficiently explore the near infinite design space for microbes. Prioritizing from among vast exploration possibilities is the key to successfully engineering new strains. Zymergen’s proprietary software lets them review large regions of the genome to pinpoint areas of interest which then guides additional tests with increased precision and reliability.

Say hello to the Chief

Joshua Hoffman, CEO: Prior to Zymergen, Josh was a Partner at Norcob Capital and before that a Managing Director in Merchant Banking at Rothschild, where he was a member of the Management Committee. He began his career at McKinsey & Company where he served industrial and technology clients on matters of strategy, operations, and organization. He holds a BA from the University of California, Berkeley and an MA and MPPM from Yale University.

“The Zymergen approach brings together data science, automation, and biology. Our proprietary platform makes strain optimization as reliable and predictable as other engineering processes.”