Biotech and biopharma have been on a path of rapidly accelerating innovation. Over the past decade, we have seen the advent of new types of gene therapies, the adaptation of CRISPR, and the rise of computational approaches to drug discovery. And yet with these new technologies comes increasingly complex challenges. Biologics, which are orders of magnitude more complex in structure than small molecules, now make up ~50% of the current global drug pipeline — and that number is only growing. However, as the level of this complexity increased, the tooling did not. In fact, the tooling used by most of biotech and biopharma today is outdated, built for a legacy chemistry and on-prem world, leaving many scientists and researchers handicapped as the industry evolves.
Lux has had a long history of investments in biotechnology, specifically platform and computationally oriented approaches to drug discovery, which has otherwise historically been hypothesis-driven in nature instead of engineering and process-driven. Examining biotech companies within our portfolio, we’ve noticed many of them have something in common: a recurring line-item of spend for Benchling’s software, which is a critical tool enabling them to accelerate R&D. Even among our own incubated biotech newcos, it is one of the first tools licensed, having quickly become the gold standard among emerging scientists in not only industry but also academia.
Benchling was founded in 2012 with a humble product offering. Before, critical experimental data was often siloed in the undecipherable chicken scratch of scientists’ physical paper-and-pen notebooks. Offering a digital alternative called an Electronic Lab Notebook, Benchling’s software was quickly adopted as the “system of record” by academic researchers. Adoption of Benchling’s software grew virally, ballooning from a few thousand to hundreds of thousands of researchers, with many of these graduate students or academics bringing this piece of software with them to the pharma and biotech careers they eventually pursued — showing true bottoms up adoption. CEO Saji Wickramasekara also noticed much of the software built to serve the life science industry was from a previous era, configured to serve small molecule and legacy on-prem lab work. Since inception, Benchling’s early product suite was built around the future, focusing on biologics and offering a cloud-native collaboration platform. Today, this software is widely used by those in the industry, from fledgling biotech upstarts to many of the world’s largest pharma organizations. It has not only become a system of record in life science R&D but also a true end-to-end platform to accelerate life science R&D.
Since 2012, Benchling has captured the hearts and minds of 230,000 scientists, with over 1,000 R&D organizations having adopted their cloud platform. Benchling more than doubled its customer base over the past year (and the year before that!), now serving industries ranging from pharmaceuticals and fuels to agriculture and food. It has added to its product suite modules for molecular biology, gene editing, analytics, and more — which have allowed scientists to conduct research faster by asking more ambitious questions and just as quickly answer them.
Twenty years ago, the field of software engineering went through rapid innovation because new tools and frameworks enabled a new age of agile software development. During this time, many historic companies were created around serving and enabling the software developer. We believe similarly that the life sciences industry is in desperate need of modern tools to supercharge their researchers and scientists. And it is precisely on that premise that we invested in Benchling. We are thrilled to invest in Benchling’s $50 million Series D along with an incredible group of coinvestors as Saji and his team continue on their mission to bring life science R&D into the 21st century.
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