Flush with $90M in VC cash, Twist and Ginkgo strike massive synthetic DNA deal

Twist Bioscience CEO Emily Leproust

Ginkgo Bioworks and Twist Bioscience have struck a deal to cement their status as two of the hottest players in the new wave of biotech startups. The one-year agreement sees Twist sign up to supply Ginkgo with 100 million base pairs of synthetic DNA, a quantity the partners think is equal to 10% of the whole market for the artificial genetic material this year.

San Francisco, CA-based Twist has won the contract on the back of an expansion it initiated earlier this year, which has been financed by the $37 million Series C round the company wrapped up in June. The cash injection is supporting the scaling up of Twist's operation, which is underpinned by a silicon platform for manufacturing synthetic DNA. Twist has structured the deal with Ginkgo so that as it scales up output and drives down the cost of its synthetic DNA, its new partner will buy more and more of its supplies. 

If the price comes down as Twist expects, it could have far-reaching implications. "In the past, the limitation has been how much DNA a company could afford," Twist CEO Emily Leproust told Fast Company. "They may not have had enough DNA to try out all the necessary options to get the right fit." Leproust set up Twist to lower the cost of synthetic DNA to the point at which this ceased to be an issue. The initiative has taken time and significant sums of money--the Series C round took the total raised by Twist to $82 million--but there is evidence the company is nearing a breakthrough moment.

Boston, MA-based Ginkgo is a beneficiary of Twist's progress. Ginkgo will use the the synthetic DNA as the building blocks for the thousands of prototypes it is planning to design for clients. The prototypes are a step in the process Ginkgo uses to design organisms that protect people from infections or produce certain molecules. Ginkgo has been plugging away at the idea since it spun out of MIT in 2008, but the company has really taken off over the past year, over which period investors have funneled $54 million into the business to support the scaling up of its operation.

- read the release
- and Fast Company's piece