Business

Transcriptic’s robot-run biology lab lets researchers run experiments remotely

Transcriptic is opening up its application programming interface today, so that scientists can control experiments in the company’s robot-run lab.

The startup, backed by Google Ventures, Founders Fund, and Mark Cuban, among others, hopes to completely reinvent how biological research is done.

Founder Max Hodak says he came up for the idea for his robotic lab while conducting mundane basic lab research at Duke University. “You’d spend all day long at the bench and waiting on the incubator to grow cells,” he said.

It’s not only that biological lab work can be boring, its also very costly. Many research labs don’t conduct their own experiments in house. Rather they partner with well endowed labs that have the equipment they need. But outsourcing to other labs means researchers might not get results for eight months and the experiment will likely cost thousands of dollars, says Hodak. What’s more, when two labs partner on research, they have to design experiments together, meaning a research group often has to change a given experiment based on the objectives of the partner lab.

While Hodak was logging the inefficiencies of lab work, he was also noticing sleek startups on laptops operating out of coffee shops. He thought there had to be a way to slim down lab work like that so that two post-docs could conduct lab work while plunking away at a computer anywhere. So Hodak put together a robotic lab called Transcriptic.

The company began offering automated cell cloning, genotyping, and biobanking services last year. Scientists send in their raw samples and Transcriptic sends back results. Basic lab experiments can be as inexpensive as $25, says Hodak, but costs can reach into the thousands depending on how elaborate the experiment design is. But what the lab does is give scientists the freedom to conduct experiments quickly and to their own specifications.

The robotic lab was just the first step. Right now the company has a selection of services it offers, but opening up its API will allow scientists and researchers to really customize the lab work. Hodak says an open API contributes to his vision of “labless” biotech companies. This new feature will hopefully help labs get the flexibility they need in lab research so “they can focus on the creative aspects,” says Hodak.

By “creative” aspects, he means that scientists will be able to spend time and resources developing scientific breakthroughs rather than focusing on where they’ll be able to do the research. Plus, being able to do a series of experiments quickly allows scientists to develop viable products more quickly. In the case of the pharmaceuticals industry, it means starting the Food and Drug Administration approval process earlier.

So far the company has received $6 million in total funding from investors including IA Ventures, Google Ventures, Data Collective, AME Cloud Ventures, Founders Fund, Naval Ravikant, and Mark Cuban.

More information:

Google Ventures is the venture capital investment arm of Google Inc. that makes financially driven investments in technology companies. Google Ventures seeks to invest in start-up companies in a variety of fields ranging from Internet,... read more »

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