Health IT

What’s the biggest challenge for life science software developers? Keeping up with pace of change

Roger Pellegrini, who handles marketing at Benchling, talked about the company’s motivation for improving the effectiveness of its drug development software at Rock Health’s reception during the J.P. Morgan Healthcare conference this week.

A personal frustration with the limitations of clunky life science research software spurred Benchling Founder and CEO Sajith Wickramasekara to start the business in 2012. Five years later the company has carved a niche in life science R&D with a customer base of 46,000 researchers for its academic users alone. Add industry scientists and its customer numbers rise to more than 50,000. They are attracted by the speediness of Benchling’s platform and the accessibility of products that are usually separate They also like the interactive quality this kind of technology previously lacked.

In a brief interview at Rock Health’s reception during the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco this week, Roger Pellegrini, who handles marketing at Benchling, noted that one reason behind the software issues in life science R&D was the frenetic pace of change.

“The big issue in our industry is that the science has moved faster than the software has,” Pellegrini said. “The pain point we solve is that we combine a lot of the tools that are traditionally separate onto one platform…It makes researchers more productive.”

That’s something of a contrast to the healthcare industry where healthcare facilities are figuring out best practices for adopting smartphone health technology to big data analytics to support the shift to value-based care.

What’s interesting about Benchling’s customer base is its diversity — the company has been able to attract big pharma, biotech and academic researchers to use its software platform, which includes a lab notebook, laboratory information management system, and molecular biology tools.

One tool the company has developed that’s of particular interest to pharma and biotechnology companies supports CRISPR gene editing research. Although Pellegrini noted that a few academic toolkits currently support CRISPR gene editing work, he claimed they are slower than Benchling’s product. Benchling developed its CRISPR tools in collaboration with academic labs at Harvard and MIT.

Benchling hinted at its plans for 2017 when it closed its $7 million Series B round in October. It hopes to release a product that bridges structured and unstructured scientific data in the first quarter of 2017.

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A Deep-dive Into Specialty Pharma

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Thrive Capital, Andreessen Horowitz, Geoff Ralston, Matt Huang, David Wallerstein, and Ashton Kutcher took part in the Series B round. Other plans for the funding include expanding scientific operations, broadening development across more therapeutic areas, and expanding its platform to be more comprehensive.

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