Ending four years of legal fight, ARCH-backed synthetic DNA maker settles lawsuit with CEO's former employer
When Twist Bioscience filed for an IPO in 2018, one issue featured prominently in the sections where execs warned investors about the risks related to their synthetic DNA business.
We and our chief executive officer are currently involved in litigation with Agilent in which Agilent has alleged a claim of trade secret misappropriation against our Company and trade secret misappropriation and other related claims against our chief executive officer. This litigation with Agilent could result in significant expense. Agilent has considerable resources available to it; we, on the other hand, are an early-stage commercial company with comparatively few resources available to us to engage in costly and protracted litigation.
They managed to avoid the worst-case scenario. Twist, now a public company following its $70 million debut, said it’s shelling out $22.5 million to settle the lawsuit with Agilent.
With no admission of liability or wrongdoing, the settlement resolves both Agilent’s original claims and Twist’s counterclaims of unfair competition, defamation, tortious interference and other unlawful conduct. It also provides a license to Twist “for discrete aspects of Agilent’s oligo-synthesis technology.”
It puts an end to a lengthy dispute that began in 2016, three years after Emily Leproust left Agilent to start Twist with co-founders Bill Banyai and Bill Peck.
On her part, Leproust maintains that the suit was an “all-out legal assault” on her startup.
“We are pleased with the outcome and believe this settlement removes both the uncertainty and legal expense associated with any trial, and is in the best interest of all of our stakeholders,” she said in a statement.
Agilent, on the other hand, said it “vindicates Agilent’s deep commitment to protecting our intellectual property.”
The bigger player’s first complaint was filed in Santa Clara, CA in February 2016 with three allegations: breach of contract, breach of loyalty and duty, and misappropriation of trade secrets by both Leproust and the former colleagues she recruited to Twist.
They wanted Twist to stop using their allegedly stolen tech platform, and Leproust to repay all compensation she received from Agilent — in addition to damages.
Just how big of a threat is Twist to Agilent’s 20-year-old operation? Here’s a summary from their amended complaint:
Before Twist, Agilent was the only commercial entity capable of using inkjet printheads to synthesize long (greater than 200 nucleotides) oligonucleotides at an extremely high density (approximately 36 microns apart) and at an industry-leading error rate of 1 in 500 base pairs.