On March 26, 2019, CEO Emily Leproust from San Francisco-based Twist Bioscience visited BioInnovation Institute’s Talks at the Square event series for at talk about the future outlook of biosciences. Twist Bioscience was founded just six years ago and today employs more than 350 people to accelerate applications that benefit from DNA writing, from health and medical breakthroughs to environmental sustainability, with the purpose of improving the lives of people around the world.
We met up with Emily for a talk about what it takes to grow a company into raising 190 million dollars. In October 2018, Twist Bioscience IPO’ed to raise an additional 70 million dollars in its stock market debut.
How has it been developing from a researcher into a CEO?
The two roles are not as different as they may seem. As a researcher you must have a vision, and you get used to failing a lot. You need to be curious figuring out new ways to do things. Being a CEO is a bit of the same. When you are out raising investments, you need to persevere and set forward a vision of how you are going to make things happen. So overall the vision is crucial, and experimentation and finding out what works is central to both being a researcher and a CEO.
What are you most proud to have achieved?
Two things come to mind: First, building Twist Bioscience. We started out with an idea and a vision. And now six years later, the technology that we imagined is working and the market that we imagined we could serve is there. Today, we have a product that is best in class, our customers are happy, and we are a public traded company. Our journey has been hard and challenging and I’m very proud of where we are today. Secondly, I’m proud of the team that we have built. The main value of a company is the people and the culture that the people create. Now we are 350 people globally and the sales are doubling from last year. This is unique, hard to achieve, and very hard to compete against.
What is your vision for synthetic biology?
My vision is that synthetic biology can solve the many big problems that humanity faces. It can enable health and sustainability. It can enable production of chemicals in a way that is sustainable and cheaper. It can enable production of food in a way that’s sustainable where we don’t need fertilizers and grow food that is more nutritious than today and can feed a growing population. It can have a tremendous impact on health and have a tremendous impact on diagnostics, for instance in helping doctors find out exactly what disease you have like a genetic mutation, a microbiome, or what genetics are driving a person’s disease to make personalized medicine. We cannot be living in a better time to do biology. It is a century of biology.
What are you currently working on?
Right now, we are working on executing our mission and delivering on our roadmap as a public company. We are creating a triple win: A win for customers, a win for us as a business and a win for patients and humanity. We are also working on the next big branches of Twist Bioscience which focus on storage of data in DNA and our biopharma business to deliver advanced drugs.
What words of advice would you give aspiring entrepreneurs?
First of all, don’t despair. Fundraising is difficult, so persevere. The second thing is, from a leadership perspective, put focus on inspiring people. Don’t deliver a blueprint of a solution but deliver the vision and inspire people to build the blueprint more efficiently. The business world is tough, but a vision will inspire you to keep going.
Join our next talk at the square with serial entrepreneur, Swedish biologist, biotechnologist, and Professor of Microbiology, Mathias Uhlén.
Read more about Twist Bioscience here: https://www.twistbioscience.com
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