Benchling raises $7M to advance cloud ELN, CRISPR design software

Data agreement

Y Combinator alum Benchling has raised $7 million to advance its cloud electronic lab notebook (ELN) and CRISPR design software, TechCrunch reports. Thrive Capital led the round with support from a mix of new and existing investors, including storied VC shop Andreessen Horowitz and actor Ashton Kutcher.

Benchling has positioned itself as the Google Docs or Salesforce of life science research. The resulting system makes full use of cloud computing and takes design cues from consumer software to deliver a package Benchling thinks is more attuned than incumbent ELNs to the collaboration and techniques that define modern biotech research. Equipped with a digital notebook, users can plan experiments, take notes, upload PDFs, search their work and incorporate DNA tools into their platforms.

The pitch overlaps with existing lab software offerings, but Benchling has made headway with both investors and biotechs, suggesting it is falling on receptive ears. Benchling lists CRISPR pioneer Editas Medicine ($EDIT), Third Rock-backed gene therapy player Voyager Therapeutics ($VYGR) and George Church’s gene synthesis company Gen9 among the users of its software. And its backers include Rock Health and a clutch of well-known angel investors, plus the aforementioned VC shops.

Prior to this week’s round, Benchling last tapped the investors for cash in April 2015, at which time it pulled in $5 million in a financing round led by Andreessen Horowitz. The back-to-back financing rounds bring the total raised by Benchling up to $13 million, almost all of which has come in the past 18 months. Powered by the $5 million, Benchling revamped its core notebook product and continued to add customers.

The current, publicly-available client list skews toward young companies that were establishing their R&D software systems when they hooked up with Benchling, rather than established research shops that already have a patchwork of legacy tools in place. But, with Benchling pitching itself as a central platform that can enable companies to jettison or integrate other R&D tools, its offering is tailored to a range of organizations.