A Year in Review: Twist Bioscience Expands in 2017
As the synthetic biology industry leaped forward in 2017 with breathtaking innovations, Twist Bioscience advanced as a market leader, helping customers use its synthetic DNA to change the world for the better. This year, we provided leaders in fields such as medicine, agriculture, industrial chemicals and data storage with tools to develop new ways to improve lives and enhance the sustainability of the planet.
We unveiled partnerships with innovative companies, a new line of high quality products, and continued growth in company size, infrastructure and investors. What follows are highlights of our achievements this past year:
1. One Billion Base Pairs of Synthetic DNA Go to Ginkgo Bioworks
Twist Bioscience expanded a supply agreement to provide Ginkgo Bioworks with one billion base pairs of synthetic DNA — the largest volume supply agreement in the industry. The agreement, announced in October, will include genes up to five kilobases in length. Ginkgo Bioworks intends to use the one billion base pairs of synthetic DNA at their newest automated foundry for organism design, Bioworks3. The foundry will be used in part by the new company that Ginkgo and Bayer recently launched, focused on nitrogen fixation for sustainable agriculture. This supply of synthetic DNA will also fuel Ginkgo’s continued expansion into new industries for a wider breadth of companies to leverage the power of biology in their lines of business.
2. 10,000 Genes to BioBricks Foundation for Open Access by the Synthetic Biology Community
The BioBricks Foundation (BBF) is receiving 10,000 genes synthesized from Twist Bioscience. The BBF will moderate a free and open online forum that allows researchers anywhere to suggest which genes should be built. The BBF-Twist Bioscience agreement represents the first time that multiple genome-equivalents of synthetic DNA is being made available at no cost to the research community.
“We are thrilled to be working with Twist Bioscience, the only company able to provide DNA at this scale and quality. Importantly, this publicly available DNA enabled by Twist Bioscience will serve as an educational means for the larger community to explore the use of synthetic DNA and help drive future demand,” said Drew Endy, Ph.D., associate professor of bioengineering at Stanford University and president of the BioBricks Foundation.
3. Beta Launch of the NGS Human Core Exome Enrichment System
We recently expanded our silicon technology platform to develop targeted next-generation sequencing--or NGS--applications. This innovation addresses the demand for better sample preparation products, also known as library preparation, to improve the sequencing workflow, increase sequencing accuracy and lower sequencing costs. Our oligo pools are used to enrich the sample by binding to specific segments of DNA, a process called target enrichment, prior to downstream sequencing.
Because we are able to precisely target, extract and uniformly amplify the target DNA segments, we believe our solution considerably improves the accuracy of the downstream sequencing analysis and reduces our customers’ cost of sequencing when compared to standard targeted sequencing methods and whole genome sequencing.
We also created end-to-end sample preparation kits that improve the NGS library preparation workflow for our customers. We’ve launched a kit for the exome and expect to launch a solution to allow customers to customize their own kit as our first major product launch into this market.
4. DNA for Digital Data Storage, Including Music From the Montreux Jazz Festival
In April, Twist Bioscience announced that Microsoft will purchase ten million strands of DNA for expanded digital data storage research, extending an agreement reached the year before. The strands of long-chain oligonucleotides are being used by researchers at Microsoft and the University of Washington to encode digital data at higher density.
As a demonstration of their work, the parties announced in September they had successfully stored in DNA archival-quality digital audio recordings of two important music performances from the archives of the world-renowned Montreux Jazz Festival — “Smoke On The Water” by Deep Purple and “Tutu” by Miles Davis. Quincy Jones, world-renowned entertainment executive, music composer and arranger, musician and music producer commented: “It absolutely makes my soul smile to know that EPFL (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne), Twist Bioscience and others are coming together to preserve the beauty and history of the Montreux Jazz Festival for our future generations, on DNA!”
5. Shipping Genes
We responded to burgeoning customer demand, shipping more than 125,000 genes in the last 12 months. The achievement was made possible by our proprietary silicon-based synthetic DNA manufacturing process, featuring a high throughput silicon platform capable of producing synthetic biology tools, including genes, oligonucleotide pools and variant libraries.
6. New eCommerce Platform
At SynBioBeta SF, Twist Bioscience CEO Emily Leproust unveiled our new online ordering platform, which replaces archaic ordering procedures, overly complex pricing, and speeds up turnaround times.
“With this tool, customers can easily enter their order at any time,” she explained. “It’s always on. We build it to be intuitive, frictionless and beautiful, and the modern way to clone will become logging in on twistbioscience.com/shop."
7. Growth on all Fronts
Our new 12,000-square-foot South San Francisco (about 10 miles south of San Francisco) facility opened its doors, more than doubling production space along with real-time video links for continuous communication and coordination. In addition, preparations moved ahead to launch another facility in Carlsbad, near San Diego, CA. Overall, more than 200 employees have joined the company, with more on the way.
8. Investment Surpasses $190 Million
Twist Bioscience raised more than $60 million this year, exceeded $190 million during the year, bring total investment to more than $190 million.
“We have built a truly disruptive, scalable DNA synthesis technology platform that is now operating on a commercial scale, providing customers in many different synthetic biology-driven industries with products to accelerate their research and product development efforts,” Leproust explained. “Importantly, with top tier investors and strategic partners standing behind us, we look forward to rapidly advancing the growth of our core gene synthesis market, and expanding our focus into two key vertical markets, drug discovery and DNA digital data storage.”
The funding includes a key investment from Biomatics Capital as well as new investors Reinet Fund S.C.A., F.I.S., NFT Investment Limited, KANGMEI Group, Bay City Capital GF Xinde Life Science Investment Fund, 3W Partners Capital and Ditch Plains Capital Management LP.
And in November, Dentsu Ventures said it plans to support Twist Bioscience's partnership strategy for developing potential technologies utilized on a variety of fronts, from pharmaceutical production to biocomputing.
9. Giving Back to the Scientific Community
We believe strongly in giving back to the scientific community, and in 2017 supported a number of important conferences around the world.
Twist Bioscience supports the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) Foundation. iGEM, an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of synthetic biology, education and competition, and the development of an open community and collaboration.
This year, at the November conference in Boston more than 300 teams of high school, undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate students from all continents competed to develop projects in 14 different categories, showcasing the fruits of their labor after months of planning, designing, and executing ambitious synthetic biology projects.
10. Twist Bioscience Leverages Oxford Genetics Licenses SnapFast™ Expression Vectors
Twist is taking advantage of Oxford Genetics’ SnapFast™ technology platform to access a broad range of application-specific expression vectors. Twist Bioscience will use the unique vectors to clone synthesized DNA for its diverse customer base. “By complementing our ability to provide high-throughput synthetic genes with a wide range of customized vectors from Oxford Genetics, we accelerate our customer’s workflow, allowing them to solve more complex problems while saving both time and resources,” Leproust said. “Importantly, it enables us to reach the large group of customers who order smaller quantities of genes in standard vectors. We remain committed to optimizing our product line to enable our customers to succeed more quickly.”
What’s next for Twist in 2018?
As for next year, expect from us continued leadership and innovation with more products, more DNA sold and more collaborations with the same grit, impact, service and trust.