Benchling & Jounce Therapeutics: Migrating to an all-in-one informatics solution for immunotherapy R&D

BY Iris Fung
February 10, 2021

A pioneer of precision immunotherapies for cancer, Jounce Therapeutics uses a number of different analytical techniques to identify biomarkers in the tumor microenvironment (TME) that can help them match their drug candidates with the right patients. The challenge for Jounce lay in managing all the assay and antibody data from concept to IND across different teams. Prior to Benchling, they used multiple software platforms that did not communicate well with each other.

Goal: Support R&D with a single platform that tracks all characterization data for a given sample from concept to clinic.

Company Profile
Number of Employees

51-250

Industry

Immunotherapy, Biologics

Location

Cambridge, MA, USA

Applications Used

Notebook
Registry
Inventory
Molecular Biology
Requests
Insights
Challenges
Productivity

Wet lab and informatics groups lost time transferring files and copying/pasting data across their multiple software platforms.
The informatics group spent valuable time maintaining and connecting their multiple software ‘solutions’.

Findability

Critical data was stored in multiple software applications across different servers, complicating report generation, insight generation, and regulatory compliance.

Usability

The friction of multiple logins and the need for specific training on how to best use each different software platform frustrated scientists and impacted productivity. Teams distributed across global locations needed an easy way to share progress and results.

Key Results

Fewer scientist hours lost to managing data, and fewer informatics hours lost to writing and managing custom software patches.

1,000s of unique biologics and 100,000s of containers were imported from the legacy systems into Benchling, centralizing all data on a single platform.

Jounce saw 100% adoption among licensed users, and scientists gave Benchling an overall 4.8/5 stars satisfaction rating.

The Story

In 2019, Jounce Therapeutics was looking for a new lab informatics software solution. When they were founded six years prior, there weren’t any all-in-one solutions that natively supported biologics R&D. The initial Jounce biologics informatics strategy integrated a patchwork of self-managed cloud systems, vendor software platforms, and niche tools that needed the support of two full-time informatics staff and multiple technical contractors.

While this multi-platform informatics ecosystem provided basic tracking, data storage, and digital note-taking, it was cumbersome, resource-intensive to maintain, and challenging to use. Scientists had to spend significant amounts of time searching through multiple systems for critical data, and the informatics team had to build and maintain custom integrations instead of devoting their full time to solving scientific problems. Despite the work of the informatics team, not every system could be integrated, and the scientists would have to replicate data in multiple systems and store data in offline files.

Upon the 4 year anniversary of the first Jounce market survey in biologics data management systems, Bill Goode (VP of IT, Informatics, and Operations) and Todd Rowe (Associate Director, Research Informatics) issued a Request For Information (RFI) to assess how the vendor landscape had changed. After reviewing proposals from numerous vendors, Benchling appeared to be an excellent fit for Jounce. Both companies agreed to do a 6-week pilot to ensure that the platform would meet the scientists’ needs. The pilot went smoothly and drove significant excitement around implementing Benchling as a replacement for the original Jounce biologics data management platform.

The Benchling implementation and migration were tailored to Jounce’s needs and executed as a seamless process. Their Implementation Manager from Benchling was diligent and responsive, creating a custom data model for Jounce and leading multiple scientist training sessions. At the same time, the Jounce team prepared their users and their legacy data for a transition into Benchling. Their strategy of creating a superuser group to evangelize the change to their own teams helped drive acceptance and adoption. A key driver for that strategy was Shannon McCabe (Sr. Business Analyst, Research Informatics). Even though she had seen multiple software implementations throughout her career, her experience with Benchling stood out. “I was impressed by Benchling’s ability to keep us on course, on task, and setting the expectations. One of the things that impressed me most about our implementation is how quickly we were able to do it,” said Shannon.

Scientists enthusiastically adopted Benchling as they recognized the value that an integrated platform could provide. Because the Benchling Notebook automatically pulls and integrates data from Inventory and Registry, it became much easier for scientists to document their experiment details in real-time, rather than type them up after-the-fact. There was a shift in approaching documentation as an activity to drive decision-making, rather than an afterthought that took up time. This shift not only improved accuracy in data-capture but also greatly improved compliance.

Now, Jounce has hit its stride. Scientists are saving time both upfront and downstream by using a single system and cutting out redundant steps, while Informatics is no longer spending time writing “glue-code” to make systems talk to each other. Both teams are also saving time by eliminating the need for training on multiple software platforms.

On the leadership side, program managers can easily obtain a high-level overview of their programs through aggregate metrics such as throughput. With a better understanding of their data and their progress, Jounce can gain clearer insights into their scientific operations, quickly make smarter decisions about their programs, and ultimately bring therapeutics to the clinic faster.

“Back then, there wasn’t an all-in-one platform. It’s really inspiring to see us go from where we were then to where we are now, fully automated and unified.”
– Bill Goode, VP of IT
Benchling’s Solution
A single cross-functional software solution streamlines reporting and saves time across multiple departments
  • Scientists save time up and downstream by interfacing with just one system that’s integrated throughout the whole R&D pipeline. For example, registering an antibody only happens once for the entire lifecycle of a sample.
  • Informatics’s support burden has reduced, as Benchling now provides support and ongoing software development.
  • A seamless workflow from antibody generation to preclinical work greatly accelerates team handoffs, as teams can pull data continuously as it is made available.
A universal source of truth makes data easier to enter, find, and use.
  • Since Benchling Notebook is natively integrated with Inventory, Registry, and Requests, it’s easier for scientists to document their work in real-time, improving compliance and the richness of experiment notes.
  • Data collection for IND filing is streamlined thanks to increased compliance, universal search across all project data, and traceability throughout the lifecycle of experiments.
  • Because all R&D data is centralized, executives can quickly get a global overview of metrics such as throughput and capacity.
Better lab tools have led to increased scientist satisfaction and collaboration
  • Scientist frustration has greatly decreased now that their data is all in one place.
  • Benchling has removed artificial barriers between teams due to heterogeneous point solutions. Now, teams can access data from their upstream and downstream counterparts and build a more holistic understanding of their experiments.
  • User tagging, in-notebook document attachments, and interlinked entities have simplified collaboration and reduced copy-paste integration.
“For Jounce, the benefits were immediate. All the little things add up to the whole system being more intuitive, more efficient, and ultimately gives scientists more time to think about their experiments instead of thinking about the tools they have to work with.”
– Todd Rowe, Assoc. Director of Research Informatics

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Published by Iris Fung
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