Toronto-based AI-powered search engine for biological products company BenchSci raises US$8 million in Series A financing. The round was led by iNovia Capital with participation from Google’s AI-focused venture fund, Gradient Ventures, and return investors Golden Venture Partners, Afore Capital, Real Ventures, and Radical Ventures. The funds will be used by BenchSci to expand its team of engineers and scientists, implement new sales and marketing programs to drive new customer acquisition, and scale its AI technology used by researchers to accelerate biomedical discoveries.
“Without the use of AI, basic biomedical research is not only challenging, but drug discovery takes much longer and is more expensive. We are applying and developing a number of advanced data science, bioinformatics, and machine learning algorithms to solve this problem and accelerate scientific discovery by ending reagent failure,” says Liran Belenzon, CEO and co-founder of BenchSci. “With this latest injection of capital, we not only have the financial resources to execute on our mission, but also iNovia’s support to scale our people and operational excellence, and validation from Gradient Ventures that the work we are doing is groundbreaking. When all of this is factored in with our association with the world’s leading artificial intelligence researchers – including Richard Zemel, Research Director at the Vector Institute and an advisor to BenchSci – we know that we are on the right track.”
This system allows researchers to attain reliable antibodies 24x faster and 75 per cent cheaper than current methods. The company launched out of beta in July 2017, and since then analyzed data on more than 4 million commercial antibodies. Customers now include 14 pharmaceutical companies (including 7 of the world’s top 10), and 910 academic research institutions (including Harvard, UCLA, Stanford, and MD Anderson). BenchSci’s registered user base has grown 20 per cent month over month and the new round will allow the team to deliver requested features even faster than before. BenchSci has also established partnerships with many of the top scientific publishers, including Springer Nature, Wiley, Karger, the American Medical Association, FASEB, and ASPET.
“BenchSci is refactoring life science research from an inconvenient, inefficient, and opaque industry into one accelerated by the power of AI, data abundance, and transparency. Our investment reflects our focus on mission-driven founders that are uniquely qualified to rewrite the rules of old industries,” says Antoine Nivard, principal at iNovia. “We firmly believe that BenchSci’s machine learning approach produces high yield results that are immediately transferrable to pharma research teams, and has the potential to fundamentally solve the research reproducibility crisis and transform how life science research is done.”
The Canadian startup has come a long way and continues to expand their diverse team by adding 16 new team members this year. In 2017 alone, the company tripled its employee count.
“Machine learning is transforming biomedical research. BenchSci’s technology provides a unique value proposition for this market, enabling academic researchers to spend less time searching for antibodies and more time working on their experiments. Our expectation is that this should lead to new discoveries (and publications) at faster rates than previously possible,” says Ankit Jain, founding partner of Gradient Ventures. “BenchSci is using its technology to disrupt the status quo. As our first investment outside of the US, we look forward to collaborating with their team and working together to drive further innovation in AI around the world.”