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Intellectual Property

Agilent contests Twist Bioscience's stock offering document

Instrument maker contends IPO contains false and misleading statements

by Marc S. Reisch
October 31, 2018 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 96, Issue 44


A photo of Twist Biosciences cofounder Emily Leproust.
Credit: Terry Way Photography
Emily Leproust

Agilent Technologies has sent a letter to the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission questioning the accuracy of Twist Bioscience's registration of securities for an initial public offering (IPO) of stock.

But the letter comes too late to forestall an IPO. The synthetic DNA maker completed its offering of shares today on the NASDAQ stock exchange, pricing them at $14.00 and raising $70 million.

The letter highlights an ongoing dispute between Agilent, a scientific instrument maker, and Twist. In 2016, Agilent sued Twist, charging that Twist cofounder Emily Leproust stole trade secrets from Agilent when she worked there. Twist denied the charge, saying Leproust was a loyal employee who served as Agilent’s chemistry R&D director until she left the company to join Twist in 2013.

In its letter to SEC, Agilent says Leproust admitted under oath that she became Twist’s CEO in 2011 while still employed at Agilent. The admission, Agilent says, came out of the ongoing trade secret dispute. However, the stock registration document “omits her November 2011 acceptance of the CEO position,” Agilent says.

In addition, while the registration document acknowledges the ongoing litigation between the two firms, Agilent charges that its description of the dispute is “materially misleading.” Agilent says Leproust and other Twist employees have admitted to taking confidential Agilent documents while Twist developed its technology. Those material facts were also left out of the registration form, Agilent claims.

Responding to Agilent’s letter to SEC, a Twist spokesperson says, “We continue to believe that Agilent’s claims lack merit, and we will continue to defend ourselves vigorously.”


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