Twist Bioscience, the company that Leproust and the Bills founded, currently synthesizes the longest DNA snippets in the industry, up to 300 base pairs. Called oligos, they can then be joined together to form genes.
Today Twist charges nine cents a base pair for DNA, a nearly tenfold decrease from the industry standard a decade ago. As a customer, you can visit the Twist website, upload a spreadsheet with the DNA sequence that you want, select a quantity and pay for it with a credit card. After a few days, the DNA is delivered to your laboratory door. At that point, you can insert the synthetic DNA into cells and get them to begin making — hopefully — the target molecules that the DNA is coded to produce. These molecules eventually become the basis for new drugs, food flavorings, fake meat, next-gen fertilizers, industrial products for the petroleum industry. Twist is one of a number of companies selling synthetic genes, betting on a future filled with bioengineered products with DNA as their building blocks.