Startups, BioPharma

Scaling DNA synthesis 10,000-fold: Twist Bioscience raises $81M

Twist Bioscience has plans to enter the pharmaceutical industry with its powerful DNA synthesis technology.

PCR plate

A traditional 96-well plate used for DNA synthesis. Twist Bioscience’s plates are the same size, but have 10,000 microwells.

Twist Bioscience is upping the game of DNA synthesis on the 96-well plate: It has created – and is commercializing – a method to manufacture huge swaths of custom DNA, on plates that can contain 10,000 bits of unique genetic material.

The Bay Area startup just closed out a $61 million Series D – with a $20 million tacked on – which will help it commercialize a beta version of its powerful DNA synthesis platform early this year.

While it’s already working with companies in the fields of industrial chemicals and data storage, Twist Bioscience plans to announce new partnerships in the pharmaceutical industry in the coming months, CEO Emily Leproust said in a statement.

Twist Bioscience conducts DNA synthesis on a scale that hugely outpaces the current standard, building tailor-made DNA strands in cheaper and faster, as a recent article in Wired describes nicely. Instead of using a standard 96-well plate to multiply custom-built DNA strands en masse, the company uses silicon wafers with nanowells to manufacture 10,000 new strands of genetic code – all assembled digitally.

Through its alpha platform, the company has shipped some 65 million base pairs of DNA to more than 100 customers through its high throughput gene fabrication process, Twist Bioscience said in the statement. It plans to commercialize its technology internationally.

The company has raised a huge amount of capital since its 2013 launch: It has brought in $133 million in total, including $20 million in debt. Investors in the current round include  ARCH Venture Partners, WuXi Healthcare Ventures, Illumina, Nick and Joby Pritzker, Paladin Capital Group, Yuri Milner, Boris Nicolic and others.