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Twist Bioscience IPO faces challenge from Agilent

Synthetic genetics company Twist Bioscience expects to go public this week, after raising around $280 million in venture capital funding.

What's new: Biotech giant Agilent, which previously employed Twist co-founder and CEO Emily Leproust, is seeking to make the IPO more difficult.

  • The two companies have been locked in litigation since early 2016, with Agilent claiming that Leproust stole trade secrets and improperly poached Agilent employees.
  • Twist has vigorously defended itself, insisting that its technology includes a key difference (namely the inclusion of silicone), and calling Agilent's lawsuit a baseless effort to “stifle innovation and competition."

Axios has learned that Agilent today plans to send a letter to the SEC, accusing Twist of making several false and misleading statements in its IPO filing documents. It also will ask the SEC to require Twist to make revisions.

  • Twist did file an amended S-1 document early this morning, but it did not seem to address any of Agilent's pending claims. For example, Twist says that Leproust co-founded and became CEO of the company in April 2013, but Agilent says that she acknowledged under oath to doing both more than a year earlier, while still employed at Agilent.

Bottom line: Twist has argued that Agilent is trying to disrupt its business. Agilent, by sending this letter just days before a scheduled IPO, is doing nothing to disabuse that notion — and holds more cards, given that there is no way for Twist to prove its case prior to pricing.