Benchling gets $14.5M to build collaboration tools for biotechs, pharmas

By Jonah Comstock
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Benchling, which offers a software suite for improving collaboration and productivity among life sciences and biotech researchers, has raised $14.5 million in series B funding. Benchmark led the round, with additional participation by F-Prime Capital and returning investor Thrive Capital.

“Just as computer science has changed the world and transformed every industry, we think that in 10 to 20 years biotech is going to fundamentally rewrite the way we live,” Sajith Wickramasekara told MobiHealthNews. “And this won’t just apply to pharmaceuticals and medicine. It’s fuels, plastics, things we use every day. It feels like today we’re at a similar inflection point with biotech as we were with computers in the 70s and 80s.”

But despite major changes in the capability of biotechnology, the tools researchers use haven’t changed much, Wickramasekara said.

“In software engineering we have great tools for working with other engineers,” he said. “Every year it gets faster, cheaper, easier, to build software. On the scientific side, you see a lot of techniques being invented but the way people worked together hasn’t really changed in the last five years. It was a lot of old archaic email and spreadsheets for scientists to work together. It’s kind of a waste of scientific potential and a drain on PhD resources. We found that scientists spend as much as 30 percent of their time on unscientific busy work, whether it’s data entry into multiple systems, trying to collate data across systems, or doing re-research because they can’t locate what’s been done.”

So Benchling has set out to solve that problem. It offers a light version of its software tools for free to academic researchers and sells a fuller industrial version to 80 biotechs and pharma companies, including Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Incyte, Editas Medicine, Agenus, Zymergen, and Obsidian Therapeutics.

“It includes tools for scientists to design experiments with DNA and protein, there are tools for scientists to document those experiments, there are tools to track all of the biological materials that are being produced in addition to managing the actual physical inventory of them because there is a lot of complexity there,” Wickramasekara said. “In addition, there is a data store where all the biology materials being produced are deposited and everyone in the organization is aware of what’s been made and what was the context in which it was made.”

The company will use the funding to continue to develop its product and to hire new team members.

“We want to drive the industrialization of this biotech economy and help our customers do in 10 years what might otherwise take 30 years to happen,” Wickramasekara said. “So we built a platform for research and development organizations. The goal is to handle the complexity of biologics, which are a new class of medicines, given that the industry is shifting.”