Twist on IT hiring spree as Illumina backs $37M fundraising round

Twist Bioscience CEO Emily Leproust

Twist Bioscience is set to grow its headcount by 50% after it raised $37 million from Illumina ($ILMN) and other investors to move its DNA synthesis technology toward commercialization. And IT hires feature heavily in the startup's plans, with half of the current job openings relating to bioinformatics, Python databases and other niches in the field.

San Francisco, CA-based Twist currently has a team of 67 people that it has built up using funds from earlier fundraising rounds and a government grant, which added a total of around $40 million to its coffers. Now, with Illumina leading a $37 million Series C round with the support of Fidelity Management, ARCH Venture Partners and others, Twist has almost doubled its financing to date. A similarly notable ramp up in hiring is planned.

Twist is currently advertising for 7 IT-related positions, a total that represents half of all its open job posts. The openings include a post for a bioinformatician who can help Twist's molecular biology group through the application of custom scripts, statistics software, databases and visualization tools. And an advert for an IT systems administrator who can manage the creation and maintenance of a secure active directory and exchange server.

The skills are needed to support Twist as it evolves into a commercial-stage company, a shift that began in April when it began working with a small group of customers. A beta commercial launch is planned for this fall, after which the world will start to see whether Twist's semiconductor-based synthetic DNA manufacturing process can live up to expectations. Twist thinks its 10,000 well silicon plates can increase the speed and accuracy of DNA synthesis.

A clutch of other companies have similar ambitions, including Gen9 and J. Craig Venter's Synthetic Genomics, which teamed up this week when the former licensed patents from the latter. Twist thinks it is clear why multiple companies are going after the DNA synthesis market. "We found there were a lot of unhappy customers. When I see a big market with unhappy customers, I see an opportunity," Twist CEO Emily Leproust told FierceBiotech.

- read FierceBiotech's article
- and the Gen9 news