Launching into Early Development: A Recap of Benchling’s Virtual Event

BY Roger Pellegrini
September 16, 2021
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At our Virtual Launch event on September 14, hundreds of R&D and IT professionals from around the world tuned in to learn how we are expanding into the early development market to help companies bring products to market faster. Scientists from the world’s largest pharmaceutical and agricultural giants, new and growing biotechs, and companies throughout the energy, food & beverage, and consumer goods industries all came together with a common purpose: To accelerate product development.

Saji and Ashu – Setting the stage

Benchling’s co-founders, Saji Wickramasekara (CEO) and Ashu Singhal (President), kicked off the event by discussing how the last 18 months have heightened expectations for biotechnology. As Saji put it, “There’s no going back to the protracted timelines of yesterday. We see a universal thread amongst our customers, a commitment to high quality R&D, and they partner with Benchling to accelerate their efforts and get those products to market faster.”

“Given Benchling’s early focus on Research, we have been fortunate to witness our customers turn discoveries into products, and support their transition into Development. This customer-led approach to expansion gave us an up-close view of the complex coordination required and how scientific collaboration on a single, unified system can improve speed and quality.”
– Saji Wickramasekara, CEO & Co-Founder @ Benchling
Using an agile software platform built for the complexity of modern life science is one of the highest-leverage ways to accelerate R&D timelines. As Ashu pointed out, the average Benchling customer sees a 60% reduction in the time scientists spend on manual and repetitive tasks, and a 4.5X increase in the ROI from their software investments.
“When scientists start using Benchling, we see an over 60% improvement in the time they have to spend on manual and repetitive tasks. We also see a 4.5X increase in the ROI our customers see from their software investments. People often don’t realize that despite the fact that biotechnology is really transforming a wide variety of industries, scientists still operate on a mix of legacy point solutions, email spreadsheets, and even paper notebooks.”
– Ashu Singhal, President & Co-Founder @ Benchling

Customer Spotlights: Cue Biopharma and Syngenta – Transforming cancer treatment and agriculture

Cue Biopharma develops novel immunotherapies to treat cancer and auto-immune diseases. Syngenta is developing new and more environmentally-friendly vegetables, field crops, and seeds. Their products are pretty different, but they have a crucial strategy in common: using Benchling to accelerate their development timelines.

Samantha Povlich (Principal Scientist) and Zohra Merazga-Vivien (Scientist) spoke about how Cue Biopharma uses Benchling to bidirectionally connect research and development, so that development gets a 360-degree view of early experiments that they can be confident in, while research can learn from development’s experiments in turn.
“The more we learn in process development, we really want that information to flow back to our research teams so that they can use it and improve the research that they’re doing… Benchling allows us to have that flow of information back and forth instead of a unidirectional information exchange.”
– Samantha Povlich, Principal Scientist @ Cue Biopharma
For Syngenta’s Charlie Baxter (Head of Traits, Regulatory, and Product Safety) and BJ Carey (Knowledge Management Lead – Scientific Data), ensuring the safety and compliance of their work is of utmost importance. Standardized and comprehensive data capture is crucial to this, so Syngenta uses Benchling to make sure they’re being absolutely rock-solid in documenting their development workflows.
“We’re striving for more innovation. And the way that that’s going to be enabled is by bringing together different kinds of information and different scientific expertise… Benchling is continuing to enable that excellence.”
– Charlie Baxter, Head of Traits, Regulatory, and Product Safety @ Syngenta

Fireside Chat: Dr. Kristen Hege – Bringing cell therapies from concept to clinic

Kristen Hege, M.D., is Senior Vice President, Early Clinical Development, Hematology/Oncology & Cell Therapy, at Bristol Myers Squibb. Dr. Hege discussed her 30+ year hybrid academic/industry career in cell therapy, from the emergence of the field during the AIDS crisis in the ‘90s, to incredible outcomes in patients with blood cancers in the 2010s, and the approval of the first BCMA CAR T product in 2021.

Dr. Hege’s talk in full is definitely worth a listen. For her, a critical part of bringing disruptive therapies to market is a strong connection between early development and discovery research. Especially when it comes to groundbreaking therapeutic modalities, it’s absolutely pivotal for scientists to be able to interrogate translational data so they can ensure safety and efficacy. In fact, this is so crucial that, “at BMS and previously at Celgene, we embedded early clinical development into discovery research with the understanding that your early clinical development really needs to be driven by the science.”
“It’s the dawn of a new age… In my 30 years in this industry, I can tell you that having the opportunity to work on the first in human clinical trial of a BCMA CAR T cell product in myeloma, where we are taking patients who had failed everything, and you give them a single infusion of a CAR T product, and within four weeks, they eliminate all tumor cells from their bone marrow and they obtain deep, complete remission… It really is transformative.”

– Kristen Hege, Senior Vice President, Early Clinical Development, Hematology/Oncology & Cell Therapy @ Bristol Myers Squibb

Announcing two new Benchling product innovations to support development teams

As our customers move products from research into development, we hear time and again that they wish they had the same efficiency, data integrity, and traceability in development that Benchling gives them in research.

Jon Fan, Benchling’s Vice President of Product, discussed the two key themes we hear across this feedback: First, that teams that work in development are very specialized and want to make very complex handoffs amongst teams easier while providing more process context. Second, that development teams need a unique mix of rigidity and flexibility in their process. Because of the regulated nature of development processes, data standardization and control is critical for compliance and analysis.

Jon introduced our newly-redesigned Workflows application, which is now easier-to-use than ever and full of new features to better support handoffs between highly specialized R&D teams. Jon also introduced new Benchling Notebook capabilities – in particular, new functions for more standardized and locked-down templates.

Lauren Shields, Benchling’s Head of Technical Solutions Consulting, brought Jon’s announcements to life by showcasing how Benchling’s new capabilities particularly empower Bioprocessing and Bioanalytical teams. Join our upcoming webinars to learn more about Benchling for Bioprocess Development and Benchling for Bioanalytic Development.

Accelerating progress from research through development

Just as we had an industrial age, an atomic age, and an information age, we’re now entering the century of biotechnology. Decades of work from pioneers like Dr. Hege have brought the world to the edge of a new dawn, where not only CAR T immunotherapies and environmentally-friendly crops, but clean energy, lab-grown meat, biomaterials, and countless other innovations are just around the corner.

To the brilliant minds working on solving our greatest challenges, we thank you for your hard work, your perseverance, and your life-changing technology. We hope we can bring you thoughtful and helpful software as you invent tomorrow. Thank you for building on Benchling.

For a full list of resources related to this launch, visit our Virtual Launch page.


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