Twist, a Delaware corporation with its principal executive office in South San Francisco, California, is a biotechnology company that manufactures synthetic DNA and DNA products. Synthetic DNA products allow users to design and modify DNA for the purposes of academic research, enhancing specialty chemical production, and developing healthcare treatments, among other uses.
Throughout the Class Period, Defendants repeatedly assured investors that the company possessed innovative proprietary technology relating to its synthetic DNA products that positioned Twist for significant future growth. Specifically, Defendants claimed that Twist had already achieved substantial growth during the Class Period, growing from a customer base of approximately 1,300 diagnostic companies, hospitals, research institutions, and others at the end of fiscal year 2019, to approximately 2,900 customers at the end of fiscal year 2021.
Similarly, Defendants reported skyrocketing gross margins, which purportedly grew from 12.8% in fiscal year 2019, to 39.1% in fiscal year 2021, with margins projected to reach 40% for fiscal year 2022.
During the Class Period, Defendants also announced plans to build a “Factory of the Future” in Wilsonville, Oregon (the “Oregon Facility”), which would purportedly provide hundreds of jobs and occupy 110,000 square feet. By August 2022, when Twist reported its financial results for the third quarter of fiscal year 2022, Defendants projected annual capital expenditures between $95 million and $100 million, largely attributable to “building out” this new manufacturing facility.
The truth about Twist’s actual financial health was revealed on November 15, 2022, when Scorpion Capital (“Scorpion”) published a lengthy report (the “Scorpion Report”) alleging that Twist is “a cash-burning inferno that is not a going concern.” Specifically, Scorpion alleged that, among other things, Twist’s purported DNA chip technology is a “farce” comparable to Theranos Inc.’s now infamous non-existent blood-testing technology, and that Twist’s growth and revenues are unsustainable, among other issues.
According to the Scorpion Report, Twist is perpetuating its fraud through false reporting of capital expenditures and gross margins—which Scorpion claims are actually negative. Indeed, Scorpion’s investigation of the forthcoming Oregon Facility revealed no evidence that Twist is preparing to begin manufacturing there, suggesting that the company is using the facility to hide large operating expenses as fraudulent capital expenditures. Scorpion further alleged that Twist’s growth is dependent upon unsustainable pricing strategies, such as using below-cost prices to undercut competitors by as much as 70% to 85%. Ultimately, the Scorpion Report concluded that Twist is “operating a Ponzi-like scheme that will end in bankruptcy.”
In response to the revelations in the Scorpion Report, the price of Twist common stock fell $7.57 per share, or nearly 20%, from a close of $38.00 per share on November 14, 2022, to close at $30.43 per share on November 15, 2022.
The complaint alleges that, throughout the Class Period, the Defendants made materially false and/or misleading statements, as well as failed to disclose material adverse facts, about Twist’s business and operations. Specifically, as alleged in the Scorpion Report, Defendants overstated the commercial viability of Twist’s synthetic DNA manufacturing technology while engaging in accounting fraud and using unsustainable pricing to inflate the company’s true financial condition and prospects. As a result of Defendants’ wrongful acts and omissions, and the significant decline in the market value of Twist’s common stock, Plaintiff and other members of the Class have suffered significant damages.