While great strides have been made in biomedical research over the past decade with breakthrough technologies like CRISPR and gene therapy, the day-to-day software used by scientists remains stuck in the dark ages.
On a product-level, legacy lab-software is often difficult to deploy (anyone heard of SaaS?), terrible to integrate (API still means Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient) and shockingly bad from a UI/ UX perspective (think Pong from 1972). On a functional level, it’s often unfit for modern data-types/ data-volumes and lacking in embedded intelligence (i.e. AI/ML). Software may be eating the world in other industries, but it only ever nibbled at the R&D lab.
Thankfully, over the last few years we’ve seen a new breed of start-up emerge looking to overhaul the lab software ‘stack’. These companies are built on modern tech foundations and tend to be product-led with freemium, self-serve versions that delight users not dissuade them. For example, F-Prime portfolio company Benchling has thoroughly modernized what a Lab Operating System should look, feel and function like. Owkin is empowering scientists to create predictive models for drug efficacy. And BenchSci (our newest investment) has mapped the worlds biomedical research to improve the efficiency of reagent selection and experiment design.
The DNA of this new breed of start-ups is also fundamentally different. They’re demographically younger (born in the web). They’re educational ‘dual-citizens’ (rooted in Biological Sciences and Computer Science). And they bring a healthy disregard for incumbent vendors in the R&D market (they're “in the world, but not of it”).
The challenge of commercializing biomedical research is well understood by everyone involved (e.g., high profile clinical failures, experimental irreproducibility and escalating costs of drug development). While better lab software is clearly not THE answer, it is AN answer.
It’s an exciting time to be building a company in this vertical and I’d love to hear from you if you are.