Ginkgo Bioworks tightens DNA ties with Twist Bioscience to fuel expansion plans

After eating up about one billion base pairs to fuel its synthetic biology and cell programming efforts, Ginkgo Bioworks is going back for seconds, with another large order from the DNA weaver Twist Bioscience.

Spanning the next four years, Ginkgo has signed on to what it describes as “an increased commitment” to purchase products from Twist compared to their last supply deal inked in 2017.

While the terms were not disclosed, the deal includes an option to “significantly” upgrade their available DNA synthesis capacity in the future—should Ginkgo’s plans for future growth come to fruition, following the SPAC deal last year that handed the company $2.5 billion in proceeds and a tripling of its total revenues in 2021.

“Over the past four years, we ordered approximately one billion base pairs of synthetic DNA from Twist, allowing us to test hundreds of thousands of proteins across dozens of programs for our customers, resulting in many completed programs spanning vaccine manufacturing, food, flavor, fragrance and even cannabigerol,” Ginkgo CEO Jason Kelly said in a statement. 

Going forward, Ginkgo will need a high volume of usable DNA from Twist to support its plans to pursue biopharma applications such as antibody therapeutic development, RNA-based vaccine production, antibiotic discovery and manufacturing, microbiome therapeutics and gene and cell therapies.

And last month, Ginkgo acquired the Swiss developer of a high-throughput cell screening platform. FGen, a former company partner, and its technology are slated to help Ginkgo isolate the enzymes and cellular pathways that it harnesses to produce specific chemical products.  

"We have worked with the FGen team for several years and believe their technology and world-class scientists will allow us to further improve our ability to explore an exponentially wider design space and deliver more value for our customers," Barry Canton, Ginkgo's co-founder and chief technology officer, said in a March statement. 

Ginkgo posted $314 million in total revenue for 2021—representing a 309% increase over its 2020 haul—alongside the addition of 31 new cell-based product programs during the course of the year.

About $113 million of that total was brought in by its Foundry division, based on the company’s platform for reprogramming cells to manufacture specific molecules for various customers and industries. The rest, about $201 million, came from its pandemic response programs, including products for COVID-19 therapeutic research as well as its in-house testing services.

For 2022, Ginkgo plans to add 60 more cell programs to its menu—hence the need for Twist’s DNA—and anticipates total sales of between $325 million to $340 million, split largely evenly between its Foundry and pandemic-related revenues.