If being at the cutting edge of science isn’t hard enough these days, imagine a time not so long ago when almost everything in the scientific process was carried out in paper lab notebooks, scattered datasets, and intra-departmental email lists.
For much of the scientific community, that’s still business as usual; however, in the niche world of life sciences research and development, there’s Benchling.
Today, Benchling announced a $14.5 million Series B round led by Benchmark, which had participation from F-Prime Capital (Fidelity’s venture funding outfit) and Joshua Kushner’s venture fund, Thrive Capital, which led the company’s Series A round back in 2016. Benchmark general partner Eric Vishria will join Benchling’s board of directors.
According to Crunchbase data, the company has raised $12.9 million in prior funding across three prior rounds, including an angel round led by Y Combinator and a seed round led by Andreessen Horowitz.
Benchling offers a free version of its platform to academic users, but it has expanded its product offerings to appeal to commercial research labs working on biologics. Benchling’s co-founder and CEO Sajith Wickramasekara told Crunchbase News that the company had a 500 percent growth in annual recurring revenue (ARR) year-over-year from 2017. Over 80 companies – including Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Incyte, and Editas Medicine, among others – now use the enterprise version of Benchling to standardize their R&D process. Between its free and paid offerings, over 100,000 research scientists and lab personnel use Benchling in their workflows.
The company was founded back in 2012 to address a problem Wickramasekara and his co-founders identified working behind lab benches in academic research groups. Namely, research scientists spent a lot of time doing “unscientific busywork” like reconciling research notebooks, tracking samples, and inventory tracking using legacy software, offline spreadsheets, and paper records. None of these provide even basic functionality like search, much less higher-level tooling for managing a research pipeline.
Wickramasekara explained that the world has been changed by silicon, and it is poised to be changed by the genetic content of cells. Gene editing technologies like CRISPR are being used to develop new treatments for cancer, drought-resistant crops, engineering biomass to produce more biofuels, stamping out diseases like malaria, and more. (Crunchbase News recently covered a $110 million funding round being raised by Precision BioSciences, a gene editing technology company.)
He wagers scientific progress would happen faster if it weren’t for what he candidly characterized as “lame” tools. Wickramasekara further noted his ambitions for the company: “Our hope is that [research scientists using Benchling] can advance life sciences at a faster pace and do in 10 years what otherwise may take 30 to 50.”