Twist Bioscience
February 10, 2020
3 min read

The Raw Materials to Tackle Coronavirus

Overview of Twist's work towards addressing Coronavirus research needs.
The Raw Materials to Tackle Coronavirus

The coronavirus that recently emerged from Wuhan, China, is a major public health threat, infecting tens of thousands and killing hundreds, so far. While the Wuhan coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is mostly localized to China, it has spread to Japan, the United States and Western Europe. This is the latest in a series of deadly pathogens to emerge around the world.



Twist is currently working with many customers to supply genetic material that can be used in the development of diagnostic tools, vaccines, and potential therapeutics. Supplying synthetic DNA for these efforts reduces the need for researchers to work with live virus samples and importantly, drastically reduces the need to transport live virus.


“Nature is the bioterrorist again,” said Twist Bioscience co-founder and CEO Emily Leproust. “We’ve seen SARS, MERS, Ebola, Zika, Spanish flu and many others. Now, we have this new coronavirus.”


Outbreaks like this can be frightening, but it’s reassuring to know that we have never had better tools to respond to these threats. International public health organizations, universities, biotechnology companies and others are mobilizing to control 2019-nCoV.


Because of our ability to rapidly synthesize DNA, Twist is in a unique position to support these efforts and help scientists study the virus and develop countermeasures.


To control the disease, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) recently awarded Inovio Pharmaceuticals a grant, up to $9 million, to develop a vaccine. 


Inovio was already working on a vaccine for a related virus, MERS-CoV, putting them in an excellent position to pivot towards the newer 2019-nCoV. Twist is working closely with Inovio, contributing genetic material to support the company’s DNA medicine platform.


But the Inovio collaboration is only one aspect of Twist’s contribution. Our ability to quickly synthesize individual 2019-nCoV genes helps researchers study the virus.


We are working with many customers to address this emerging virus head on. In addition, we are partnering with government organizations and local hospitals in China to develop a custom NGS panel for the detection of nCorona virus and enable viral genotyping. This panel would also be used to detect viral variation and how it is changing or presenting differently in diverse areas of China. 


“Organizations want to develop vaccines, and they want to develop vaccines that are effective for many strains of the virus,” said Leproust. “They need that DNA quickly, and perfectly.”


Twist is also providing gene fragments and next generation sequencing tools, synthesizing DNA for neutralizing antibodies and supplying the necessary genetic material to develop diagnostic tests and enhance early detection.


Twist’s biosecurity platform governs all aspects of our gene synthesis, ensuring that both sequences and customers are screened against applicable government lists and other additional criteria appropriately and that the research is being conducted by legitimate organizations known to work in these areas.


Twist will continue to collaborate with agencies and companies around the world to counter 2019-nCoV, as well as future pathogens, as this is all in a day’s work at Twist. While the 2019-nCoV is top of mind for many of us, there are research, diagnostics and therapeutic development for countless other diseases and health concerns that are supported every day through Twist genes, oligo pools, NGS panels and variant libraries.


We work in service to our customers who are changing the world for the better. In fields such as diagnostics, therapeutics, agriculture, industrial chemicals and data storage, by using our synthetic DNA tools, our customers are developing ways to better lives and improve the sustainability of the planet. We believe that the faster our customers succeed, the better for all of us, and we believe Twist Bioscience is uniquely positioned to help accelerate their efforts. Please contact us if we can support your efforts today.

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