A Conversation with Bolt Threads

BY kyrstin
July 2, 2019

At Benchling’s spring user forum, Benchtalk West, we sat down with Bolt Threads’ Deven Dharm, Director of Software Engineering, and Patrick Johnson, Systems Analyst, to hear how Bolt uses Benchling to manage its data. For Deven and Patrick, data centralization has been the most crucial aspect of their adoption of Benchling. With Benchling as a “universal source of truth,” Bolt can better track the lineage of entities and their data, significantly speed up data entry, and eliminate data errors by an estimated 30%. And for Deven and Patrick, this means deeper insights, enhanced decision making and accelerated discovery.

Learn more about how Benchling users are transforming their R&D.


Full Interview with
Deven Dharm

Q1: Tell us a little bit about who you are and what your company does.

A1: I am Deven Dharm, I lead software engineering at Bolt Threads. Bolt is a company that takes inspiration from nature and leverages bioengineering to create revolutionary materials with a long term focus on sustainability. Essentially, we are creating better materials for a better world.

Q2: What would you say is the ultimate benefit you and your company get from using Benchling?

A2: The ultimate benefit is that we have been able to centralize all of the scientific data into one location. It has significantly facilitated driving deeper insights from data and helped our company move a step closer to being an insights-driven organization.

Q3: What challenges were you and your company facing in your R&D process before you adopted Benchling?

A3: Before we adopted Benchling there were numerous challenges we were facing. One was that the data was scattered, different scientists used different tools and different processes to work with data and to do their experiments. We also had a broken process for sample submission. We were not in a position to be flexible with respect to the constantly evolving processes changes or workflow changes. The rate at which our scientists have been doing research on a myriad of materials, we were not able to be as flexible as we needed. Benchling essentially allowed us to handle all of that using one single system. So Benchling became a universal source of truth and a super flexible system that allowed us to evolve rapidly as we grew into more materials.

Q4: What teams are using Benchling? What features do they use and how do they fit into their scientific workflow?

A4: All of the scientific teams use Benchling. We actually use all of the modules that Benchling has today, including the Bioregistry, the workflows, ELN, sample submission request workflows, essentially all of the modules are being used very actively by the community.

Q5: What is it like to work with Benchling as a partner?

A5: So one of the biggest advantages that I have found working with Benchling is the ease with which you can work with them. I have over twenty two years of experience working with so many different software systems and vendors. One of the things I feel is really underrated is the ease of working with vendors, the ease of doing business with vendors. I think that makes a world of difference on how successful your project is. When we started working with Benchling, we encountered some challenges because of the specific nature of our processes. But Benchling was so fast to respond to that need, they diverted their software team to handle the things that we needed and within seven months of signing the contract we have a fully functional system with a super happy user base.

Q6: How does the business side of your organization benefit from using Benchling?

A6: The business side of the organization benefits significantly because of the improved accuracy and the quality of data, because of the improved decision making which overall accelerates the process of discovery. We also benefit from improved productivity because we have leveraged automation for data entry and we have given our scientists keyboards, surface pros and things of that nature that they can carry with them into the labs and use the Benchling interface as a direct interface to enter data as opposed to using in-transit papers and notebooks which they then had to carry back to their desks and then enter data. It has significantly reduced our data errors by I would say almost 30%.

Full Interview with
Patrick Johnson

Q1: Tell us a little bit about who you are and what your company does.

A1: Hey, I’m Patrick Johnson. I’m the systems analyst at Bolt Threads on the software team. Bolt Threads is working to bring better materials to a better world.

Q2: What would you say is the ultimate benefit that you and your company get from using Benchling?

A2: Hmm, that’s a good question. The ultimate benefit that I think we get from using Benchling is being able to track the data lineage all the way back from the fibers that we create that we put in our products, all the way back to the strains and plasmids that are engineered by our microbiology team.

Q3: What challenges were you and your company facing in your R&D process before you adopted Benchling?

A3: So, some of the challenges we faced before Benchling were our data was in various different silos. Things were captured in paper notes, email, on Box, and having Benchling as one source of truth has been really helpful and allows us to be able to have a one stop shop, one spot that we can go to for viewing that data. It’s also really helped us with tracking the lineage of our proteins, right, from the fiber we put into a finished product all the way back up to the strains and plasmids that our molecular biology team creates in the lab.

Q4: What teams are using Benchling? What features do they use and how do they fit into their scientific workflow?

A4: So what teams are using Benchling. A better question is what teams aren’t using Benchling, at this point. We originally started off with Benchling with all of our teams that are working on our silk products. That would be our molecular biology team, fermentation, DSP recovering separations team, down to our materials research fibers teams. But after seeing that success, our Mylo side of our business, they came to us and asked us, “Hey can we start using that hot new tool you’re using on these days?” We have been working to roll that out, roll Benchling out to those teams as well. So I would say all teams, if they are if not already using Benchling, there is a plan for all teams at Bolt to use Benchling in the future.

Q5: What is it like to work with Benchling as partner?

A5: So I am glad you asked this question. Working as a partner with Benchling has been a really fantastic experience for us. I think everyone we’ve interacted with on our side from Denise and Sam on the sales team, to Trey, our Customer Success Manager, really, I’m not sure where we would have been without his support throughout our rollout. Also, when we run into issues like certain bugs we experienced on the day to day, everyone is really fast to jump on the phone and respond to a message and work to find a fast solution for us. I never feel like I am stuck because Benchling isn’t getting back to me. It’s been a really great partnership, and I’m glad we’re in business with them.

Q6: How does the business side of your organization benefit from Benchling?

A6: So, give me a second. Couple weeks ago, Rich came up to me and asked how we could better track the samples that are sent to analytical for chemistry for assays to basically tell how much of our silk protein is inside of the various intermediary materials. And he wanted to track which of those samples were parts of which of Bolt’s overlying projects. By plugging into the Benchling data warehouse and using a visualization tool, we were able to pull up that visual, I pulled it up in about fifteen minutes for him just a first shot overview of how which samples belong to which projects at Bolt. That was great, I think Rich really appreciated that.

Published by kyrstin
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