How Twist Bioscience founder Emily Leproust created a synthetic biolog

One of many keys to combating COVID-19—and its variants—is the power to check its genome and conduct checks on it at scale. And key to this effort is synthetic DNA.

Based in 2013, Twist Bioscience is a pioneer on this area. It has developed a methodology of affordably writing DNA on silicon chips, which can be utilized by researchers in therapeutics and precision medication, agricultural, and biomaterials. 

When COVID-19 hit final yr, Twist tailored its expertise to develop a synthetic management model of the virus, which has been utilized by quite a few labs to create and validate checks for COVID-19 and its variants. This earned Twist a place on Quick Firm’s listing of the ten Most Progressive Biotech Firms of 2021. However the purposes of Twist’s DNA go far past COVID-19, from preventing most cancers to storing episodes of your favourite Netflix present. 

On this week’s Most Innovative Companies podcast, Twist Bioscience cofounder and CEO Emily Leproust talks about how her firm is empowering your complete ecosystem of synthetic biology, which is booming. Final yr, traders poured practically $8 billion {dollars} into associated corporations. 

“Synthetic biology corporations use our DNA to do cool stuff,” says Leproust. “We offer the picks and shovels, and our clients are digging for gold.”

In accordance with her, we’re solely simply starting to see the world-changing potential of analysis carried out with synthetic DNA. She describes how most cancers therapy has moved from utilizing the identical medication to deal with everybody to the precision medication of right this moment, the place therapeutics are tailor-made to the gene that’s driving the most cancers.

The following section, which goes to be enabled by synthetic DNA, is personalised medication, the place they really have a look at your personal mutation. You’re the one one to have that mutation, and also you’re going to be the one one to get that drug that’s going to make you higher,” she says. “We now have a chance for the primary time, to assume that most cancers might grow to be a continual illness.”

Twist can also be championing the usage of DNA as a data-storage gadget. The corporate partnered with Netflix final August to retailer an episode of the present Biohackers utilizing Twist’s synthetic DNA. In accordance with Leproust, DNA isn’t solely steady perpetually (in contrast to onerous drives and tape), it’s additionally very dense. “You would put all the knowledge on the web in a shoe field. You’ll be able to have tons of of Google knowledge facilities in a sugar dice,” she says. “And since it’s dense, you don’t have to have a large electrical invoice to maintain the whole lot cool, so it’s very sustainable.”

Proper now, the price of DNA-based knowledge storage is simply too excessive for widespread adoption, although Laproust guarantees her firm is a “few years away” from making it commercially aggressive.

She’s additionally bullish on the potential for biomaterials produced with Twist merchandise. She cites the power of labs to make use of synthetic genes to manufacture spider silk on a near-industrial scale. “I feel that over the following many years, every bit of plastic we use goes to get replaced with protein, [which] may be engineered to have any options you need,” akin to transparency, flexibility, and power.

Leproust finally envisions a world crammed with “wonderful” purposes of synthetic biology. They are going to be so commonplace that “no person will know that it’s synthetic biology that permits [them],” she says. “No person will know that Twist made the DNA, however that’s advantageous.”

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