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BenchSci, an AI-powered search engine for biomedical researchers, has raised $8 million in a series A round of funding led by iNovia Capital, with participation from Google’s recently announced Gradient Ventures, Golden Venture Partners, Afore Capital, Real Ventures, and Radical Ventures.

Founded out of Toronto, Canada in 2015, BenchSci uses machine learning to translate both closed- and open-access data into recommendations for specific experiments that a researcher is planning to carry out. Ultimately, it’s about speeding up studies to help biomedical professionals find reliable antibodies and reduce resource waste.

“Without the use of AI, basic biomedical research is not only challenging, but drug discovery takes much longer and is more expensive,” noted BenchSci cofounder and CEO Liran Belenzon. “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.”

Above: BenchSci search

Google’s various associated investment funds, including Alphabet’s GV, have invested in a number of biotech and life science startups in recent years, including next-gen vaccine discovery startup SpyBiotech. But in July of last year Google announced a new venture fund aimed specifically at early-stage AI startups. And in the year since its inception, Gradient Ventures has invested in nine startups, including BenchSci, the fund’s first known health tech investment and first outside the U.S.

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“Machine learning is transforming biomedical research,” added Gradient Ventures founding partner Ankit Jain. “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.”

BenchSci had raised some undisclosed seed funding previously, and with another $8 million in the bank the startup plans to scale its AI technology and expand its team of scientists and engineers. The company said that it tripled its headcount last year and plans to add 16 new hires throughout 2018.

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