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Twist Bioscience, Ginkgo
 Sign Big DNA Deal

Synthetic Biology: Supply agreement endorses new synthesis approach

by Ann M. Thayer
November 9, 2015 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 93, Issue 44

A just-signed supply agreement is setting a new standard for low costs and high volume in the synthetic biology market. Twist Bioscience has agreed to supply at least 100 million base pairs of synthetic DNA over a one-year period to Ginkgo Bioworks, which will use the DNA to engineer prototype organisms for customers.

Both companies are hot prospects in synthetic biology. Seven-year-old Ginkgo raised about $54 million this year and has at least 20 organism design contracts under way. Twist amassed $82 million over two years to develop its silicon wafer-based process for DNA synthesis.

The synthetic biology market will grow more than 30% per year to reach nearly $12 billion by 2018, according to BCC Research. Yet most of those sales will be of end products. Demand for DNA synthesis is also rising, but prices are falling as advances are made. In fact, Ginkgo’s deal with Twist stipulates that it will increase its purchases as Twist lowers prices.

Twist’s method allows it to produce DNA at 10 cents per base. Claiming Twist has “the best price on the market,” Ginkgo CEO Jason Kelly says the multimillion-dollar order should meet his firm’s anticipated needs as it runs its automated organism-engineering foundry for food, health, and consumer goods customers.

Ginkgo’s order amounts to about 10% of the total DNA synthesis capacity available, the two firms say. “We are by far the largest consumer of synthetic genes,” Kelly says. “It’s an absurd amount of DNA compared to what has happened in the market before.”


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