Benchling: Bringing Industrialization to the Biotech Revolution
I’m thrilled to announce Benchling’s Series B fundraising, led by Benchmark with participation from F-Prime Capital. In this post, I discuss our plans for Benchling as we enter this new stage of growth.
When we founded Benchling six years ago, my co-founder, Ashu Singhal, and I had a vision of lab software that was as sleek and intuitive as modern consumer software. In the beginning, Benchling was a group of five software engineers in a single room that couldn’t reasonably be called an “office”, trying to build a molecular biology tool that made it easy to share and work together. Our first users were our friends, beleaguered PhD candidates who had spent their days wrangling seemingly ancient sequence design tools. We had our vision, but the extent to which that vision would be embraced was not, by any means, a sure thing.
Similarly, the proliferation of biologics wasn’t a sure thing. In 2012, biologics made up roughly 27% of pharmaceutical pipelines, and had been hovering around that level for the preceding ten years. The FDA hadn’t yet approved a single CAR-T or gene therapy, and CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing hadn’t even been invented yet. Worst of all, the pioneering scientists who were working on cutting-edge biologics were stuck using paper, spreadsheets, and legacy software built for traditional small molecule research.
Today, of course, biologics are widely acknowledged as the drugs of the future. In 2017, biologics made up nearly 40% of pharmaceutical pipelines. In the first two months of 2018, investment in biotech startups exceeded the entirety of biotech investment in 2012 and also 2013. Industry consensus is that by 2022, the majority of top 100 drugs on the market will be biologics. And while many scientists still use paper, spreadsheets, and legacy software in their day-to-day, Benchling has become the new gold standard for large molecule R&D.
We’re no longer just an attractive molecular biology suite – today, Benchling is a complete informatics platform for biologics R&D. With our Lab Notebook, Bioregistry, Sample Tracking, Workflow Management, and Request Management modules, scientists at the top biotech and pharmaceutical companies around the world are up to four times more productive and send 67% fewer emails to collaborate on their research. With Benchling as a central, integrated hub for their entire informatics infrastructure, directors and executives can access comprehensive data on all of their R&D programs. For the first time, they can confidently decide whether or not to move forward with a candidate.
We’ve come a long way since our humble beginnings. And today, we have our sights set on an even greater vision.
Right now, we’re at the start of a biotech revolution comparable to the rise of the computer in the ’70s and ’80s, the rise of semiconductors in the ’40s and ’50s, and even the industrial revolution of the 19th century. Over the next 10 to 20 years, biotech will fundamentally rewrite the way we live – and this goes beyond pharmaceuticals. The food we eat, the crops that make up our agriculture industry, the fuels that power our lives, and just about all everyday materials, from textiles to plastics, will be radically affected and improved by biotech.
We believe that Benchling will be the central force that drives the industrialization of this new biotech economy.
The inefficiencies in biotech that Benchling is solving today are the same sorts of inefficiencies that preceded the rise of semiconductors, modern manufacturing, and even chemistry-based R&D. Over time, all of these life-altering changes trended towards standardized, structured industrialization. In the context of biotech, this means more engineered processes, higher predictability, higher scalability, and ultimately faster time-to-market.
For these changes to become a reality, companies need a solution that enables rapid, iterative development of new therapeutic techniques; empowers faster and smarter decision-making; and accelerates the move to “labless” drug companies. Benchling will be that solution.
As we gear up for our new phase of growth, I’m thrilled to announce our new round of funding, led by Benchmark, and the addition of Eric Vishria to our board of directors. Benchmark and Eric will bring their experience building enduring software business to bear on Benchling’s vision for industrialized biotech. The additional participation of F-Prime Capital Partners, a part of Fidelity Investments, brings unparalleled life science expertise to our team. With our growing list of investors and partners, Benchling will be able to fast-track all of the developments that will make industrialized biotech a reality. (Read the full press release.)
From the beginning, we’ve worked closely with scientists and companies who have brought large molecules to the forefront of modern technology. Today, those same beleaguered PhD candidates who gave Benchling a shot six years ago are finishing up their postdocs, publishing papers in top journals, and even starting labs and cutting-edge biotech companies of their own. Our primary users now are not only biotech startups but scientists at the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. It is gratifying to see the impact Benchling is having on enterprise-wide deployments in larger and larger companies such as Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Incyte, Editas Medicine, and Agenus. Over the coming years, their research will (in some cases literally) alter the fabric of our lives. Benchling will be right by their side, accelerating their research, and giving them the tools they need to bring all of us into a bright future.
Saji Wickramasekara, Co-Founder and CEO