Happy DNA Day!
April 25th is DNA Day, celebrating both the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA in 1953 as well as the successful completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003. Twist Bioscience is proud to celebrate this day, and all the innovations enabled by these achievements.
On April 25th, 1953, Francis Crick, James Watson, Rosalind Franklin, Maurice Wilkins, and their colleagues published papers in the journal Nature describing the helical structure of DNA. These discoveries paved the way for a vast host of research in many fields, leading to profound scientific breakthroughs.
This x-ray diffraction pattern, generated in the laboratory of Dr. Rosalind Franklin, was used by Francis Crick and James Watson to develop the double helix model of DNA structure. (Image copyright: King’s College London)
Capturing the immense impact of Watson, Crick, Franklin, and Wilkins’s discovery on our world today have filled several books already, and an exhaustive list would be next to impossible. To call out a few major highlights, three key areas dramatically advanced by the discovery of DNA are medicine, forensics, and agriculture. In medicine, DNA has enabled the early diagnosis, treatment, and, in some cases, even cure of genetic diseases. In addition, our understanding of DNA furthers our understanding of complex diseases like cancer, and enables researchers to develop innovative treatments. In the field of forensic science, DNA evidence has solved innumerable crimes and exonerated many wrongly convicted in court cases around the globe. DNA enables the identification of endangered animals and new species no matter where they are found. The impact of DNA on agriculture extends far beyond the United States, with crops that are now drought tolerant, with increased nutritional value, particularly important in developing nations.
On April 14, 2003, the Human Genome Project was declared successfully completed in a news release from National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), the Department of Energy (DOE), and collaborators from the International Human Genome Sequencing Consortium. The results were published in Nature on April 24th, 2003, almost exactly 50 years after the initial publication on the structure of DNA.
The convergence of these major milestones in DNA research led to the U.S. Congress proclaiming April 25th, 2003 as National DNA Day. Every year since, there have been annual nationwide DNA Day celebrations organized by the National Human Genome Research Institute and the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG). DNA Day has since expanded, and is now celebrated all over the world. Check out this map of DNA Day events from the NHGRI to find the celebration nearest you!
Adding to the celebration, April is also an important month for Twist Bioscience. We were founded on April 15th, 2013 by our trio of co-founders: COO Bill Banyai, CEO Emily Leproust, and CTO Bill Peck. Since, there have been many major events at Twist Bioscience:
- April 2013: Twist Bioscience is founded
- April 2015: Launch of alpha access program for massively parallel gene synthesis using proprietary silicon-based DNA synthesis platform
- November 2015: Ginkgo Bioworks agrees to purchase 100 million base pairs of synthetic DNA from Twist Bioscience, a volume estimated to be 10% of all synthetic DNA purchased annually at the time
- April 2016: Launch of beta program, offering higher throughput synthetic DNA production
- April 2016: Twist Bioscience acquires Genome Compiler to add gene design capabilities
- April 2016: Microsoft purchases synthetic DNA from Twist Bioscience for digital data storage research
- October 2016: Twist Bioscience adds new South San Francisco site to expand gene production capacity
- March 2017: Twist Bioscience has raised a total of $166 million in financing to accelerate our growth and expansion
- April 2017: Microsoft expands its relationship with Twist Bioscience, purchasing an additional 10M strands of DNA to pursue digital data storage with University of Washington
DNA Day is special to Twist Bioscience. It is a time for us to reflect on how far DNA research has come, and look forward to world-changing advances enabled by new technologies for synthesizing and sequencing DNA.
The first couple years at Twist Bioscience were focused on developing and optimizing our proprietary technology that enables massively parallel synthesis of DNA on silicon. In the last two years, we have greatly expanded our commercial operations and are now selling clonal genes, gene fragments, oligo pools for CRISPR screening, variant libraries for antibody and enzyme engineering, and are helping accelerate research in new fields such as DNA data storage.
Since the double helix structure of DNA was first publicly discussed at The Eagle Pub in Cambridge, UK, it seems appropriate that we should all raise a pint and toast to DNA, the discoveries that DNA research have facilitated, and the new research that will continue to be enabled in the future. Cheers!