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Ginkgo Bioworks Triples the Size of DNA Supply Agreement with Twist Bioscience

Twist Bioscience and Ginkgo Bioworks have announced an agreement for Twist to supply 300 million base pairs of synthetic DNA to Ginkgo through 2017, expanding on the companies’ existing supply agreement for 100 million base pairs made in November of 2015.

The companies’ previous partnership for 100 million base pairs was unprecedented in scale, and their latest agreement for three times that amount is even more so. Ginkgo has been pleased with speed and quality of the DNA they have received from Twist since their original supply agreement was inked some seven months ago, and is eager to expand their existing alliance. Ginkgo CEO Jason Kelly offered praise for Twist:

“We’ve already received millions of bases on-time and on-spec from Twist Bioscience in the first several months of our partnership. We’re excited about how quickly they’re scaling their DNA synthesis technology and infrastructure that we’re already tripling our order for next year.”

Twist CEO Emily Leproust also expressed her excitement for an ongoing partnership with Ginkgo, stating: “We are thrilled to support Ginkgo in their significant growth and unprecedented success both through our current agreement and their escalating demand through 2017. As we expand our product offering to include longer genes and a diversified product mix, we look forward to serving Ginkgo’s future growth beyond 2017.”

Ginkgo Bioworks and Twist are Powerhouses in Custom Organism Design and DNA Synthesis Since 2015

Ginkgo Bioworks has emerged as a leader in synthetic biology, specializing in microorganism design for its customers’ biobased production of flavor, fragrance, cosmetics, and other chemicals. The key to Ginkgo’s success has been its massively parallel, rapid prototyping of organisms which requires enormous quantities of synthetic gene constructs. The company represents a main driver in the market for synthetic DNA, with their present overall demand for 600 million base pairs representing 60% of the current market.

Ginkgo’s rapid prototyping model is supported by automated foundries with proprietary robotic technology to accelerate the organism design process. With its Bioworks1 foundry already operational, Ginkgo’s increasing need for DNA suggests that the company is continuing to make headway on their up-and-coming Bioworks2 foundry. Ginkgo’s impressive progress has been enabled by falling DNA prices. As the cost of synthetic DNA has dropped, the market has expanded, allowing companies like Ginkgo to employ DNA-intensive methods on a large scale.

Scale is the name of the game, too, for Twist Bioscience, whose high-throughput silicon-based DNA synthesis technology is capable of producing thousands of strands of synthetic DNA in parallel. Currently, Twist supplies oligonucleotides, variant libraries, and genes up to 1800 base pairs in length. The company’s plans to diversify their product portfolio and offer longer genes will support the growing size and number of Twist’s partnerships, including a recent deal with Microsoft to supply 10 million oligonucleotides of DNA for data storage.

The importance of large amounts of affordable DNA

Mounting partnerships like the Twist-Ginkgo alliance show that there’s a trend in the relationship between the cost of synthetic DNA and size of the market. Increasingly, synthetic biology enterprises like Ginkgo are leveraging large volumes of ever-cheaper DNA to realize their applications. Ginkgo CEO Jason Kelly is certainly a believer in the promise of the market for DNA on demand. “If your company is still cloning by hand,” he says, “you’re missing out on a big opportunity.”

New and expanded partnerships are likely on the horizon for Twist, and a greater variety of organism design applications in store for Ginkgo.


Christine Stevenson

Christine Stevenson is a freelance science writer and adjunct professor of biology at the Maricopa Community Colleges in the Phoenix metropolitan area. She holds an M.S. in Biology from Arizona State University and has a background in both wet lab research and venture capital consulting. She lives in Tempe, AZ with her dogs, cats, chickens, and goat.

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