Highlights from Benchtalk Summit 2019

BY Roger Pellegrini
November 13, 2019

This October, more than 200 R&D professionals from groundbreaking biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies came together at Benchtalk Summit to discuss their research, key challenges in the industry, and how they’re using Benchling to reach breakthrough discoveries faster. This year’s program was more extensive than ever, with workshops for Benchling users on advanced molecular biology functions and integration development, a fireside chat with IT leaders from Bioverativ and Rubius Therapeutics, presentations from Akrevia Therapeutics, Beam Therapeutics, and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, and a presentation by Benchling’s Head of Product, Ashu Singhal, on our vision and product roadmap.

Here are the biggest highlights – and one great story about pizza – from the Summit.

Cutting-edge companies are working to master a new R&D paradigm.

In the past decade, biopharmaceuticals have grown from comprising 15% of in-pipeline drugs, to 50%. Eight of the top-10 best-selling drugs are now biopharmaceuticals. But the speed and complexity of R&D has increased dramatically, and companies are finding that they need to embrace a new paradigm to be successful. Mastering lab automation, data integrity, forecasting, and rapid iteration on scientific platforms were key topics at Benchtalk Summit.

Attendees were given a sneak peek at Benchling’s upcoming Analytics and Lab Automation offerings, demonstrating how the data integrity afforded by the Benchling platform unlocks completely new possibilities for forecasting and automation. In addition, Dheeraj Tomar, Scientist at Akrevia Therapeutics, and Bob Gantzer, Head of Automation at Beam Therapeutics, separately discussed how they use Benchling APIs to ingest and process the large amounts of complex data produced by their novel R&D workflows. As a result, they’re reaching key decisions on their projects and iterating on their processes faster than ever before.

Biointelligence is the key to unlocking insights in modern life science.

The term “biointelligence” might have been new to many attendees, but the definition struck a chord: the ability to answer big questions in life science research through the intersection of sample and process traceability. Bob Gantzer, Head of Lab Automation at Beam Therapeutics, showed us the impact biointelligence has had on the company’s research outcomes.

For Shane Flannelly-King, then-IT Lead at Bioverativ, biointelligence culminates in the interconnectedness of Benchling’s large molecule registry. As Shane put it, “It really changes the approach to have a large molecule registry be about the connections between entities, and not just a huge sifter of data.” Being able to connect assay results to the upstream entities and experimental processes that produced them means that Bioverativ’s scientists can make better-informed decisions – and that the leadership team can forecast with confidence.

You don’t need to bribe scientists with pizza to get them to use an ELN.

A definite highlight of Benchtalk Summit was when Kata Lawler, Business Analyst at Rubius Therapeutics, detailed the hurdles that her team faced with the ELN they used prior to Benchling. As Kata said, they had “a biweekly meeting where we had to bribe people to fill out their notebooks with pizza.”

At the first of these meetings following their Benchling implementation, Rubius’s lab manager asked the scientists why they were just sitting around enjoying the pizza, and not entering data in their notebook. Their answer? Benchling was so user-friendly that they already entered their data over the course of the week. Rubius has since stopped having those meetings, which means no more free pizza. But having reliable data and intuitive software is its own reward!

Looking Forward: Automation, Analytics, and Small Molecules

Missed Benchtalk but want to hear about our roadmap? Reach out to your Benchling representative or request a demo. At the Summit, we described how our engineering team is actively building the next generation of Benchling applications. Capabilities around lab automation, in-product analytics, and support for small molecule registration – among other things – are all on the near horizon. Built within the fully unified Benchling Life Sciences R&D Cloud, these new applications will make Benchling the de facto solution for modern life science R&D. We can hardly wait to tell you more.

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Published by Roger Pellegrini
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