Q&A with Tara Hill, Twist Bioscience

  • Posted on 30 June, 2017

Tara Hill

SC Congratulations to everyone at Twist Bioscience on the latest award Tara.

TH Thanks Steve. Yes, Twist Bioscience has just been voted one of the world’s top 25 most disruptive companies by and we’ve recently closed a financing that brings our total financing since inception to $191M. We’re thrilled that Twist Bioscience has been recognised with this the award and even more pleased that it points to the power of synthetic biology to accelerate science and innovation.

SC How did you come to join Twist Bioscience just when you did and at such an exciting time for the company?

TH You’re right Steve, it really was the perfect moment. I was hired two years ago as Twist Bioscience’s Director of Business Development, Europe and I was its first employee in Europe. Initially, my job was to generate sales and grow our customer base. That took off really quickly and I’ve been busy building a team ever since. Right now, there are six of us across Europe and by the end of this summer we will be ten and we’re planning on increasing that over the next two years as the demand grows. We’re also going to create a European HQ so that we can build the business strategically with more critical mass and functionality in Europe.

I’d known our inspirational CEO, Emily Leproust, when we both worked at Agilent. I have huge respect for Emily and when I heard there was an opening at Twist Bioscience, it was an easy decision to make. Previously I’d spent 16 years with Agilent, starting when it was still Hewlett-Packard as a field application specialist and moving up to European Sales Manager by the time I left.

SC Did you worry at all about moving from a big corporation to one that had only just grown out of the start-up phase?

TH I had such a clear view of the potential for Twist Bioscience’s technology and I trusted the people that I knew in the company, so it was a surprisingly easy decision for me to make. I’d taken risks before and this didn’t feel as big. That’s really how my career in science began. I was at school and about to take English, Latin and French A-Levels, but knew that it was science that really interested me. Then I saw an ad for a vacancy as a lab technician at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. The bonus was that I could study science A-Levels on a day-release programme and eventually earn my degree. It wasn’t what my family or I had planned but it felt right; I could work and learn at the same time. Eventually I completed my degree and stayed at the lab for 12 years. I had to choose between a PhD and taking a job, eventually choosing to work at Agilent as I had so much experience of analytical technologies from my time in the labs in Liverpool. It was that decision to leave school early that gave me a career working in science. It’s counter-intuitive but it was the right decision for me and now I’m at Twist Bioscience, I’m delighted by how it’s all turned out.

SC Looking ahead, what do you anticipate will be the biggest changes that we’ll see in synthetic biology over the next couple of years?

TH Twist Bioscience has developed and commercialized a disruptive, scalable technology platform to deliver very large quantities of synthetic DNA to customers across multiple industries: pharmaceutical and biotech; industrial chemicals; agricultural biotech and academia. By continuing to scale, we believe that we will continue to fuel new innovations in multiple industries, further driving biological innovation and the bioeconomy. For Twist Bioscience specifically, we will implement our eCommerce platform and focus on building our organization within two key market segments: drug discovery and DNA data storage.